Yesterday Michael Arad unveiled a design for a permanent memorial dedicated to the victims of the Emanuel Nine massacre at the historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Arad, a partner at New York-based firm Handel Architects, is the mind behind the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. He was chosen last June to imagine a space honoring the lives who were lost and the five survivors of the June 15, 2015 tragedy, which made worldwide headlines after a 21-year-old white supremacist shot and killed nine African American church members and clergy during a Wednesday night Bible study. The memorial was revealed on Sunday after a service and celebration marking the church’s 200th anniversary. The concept for the Emanuel Nine Memorial breaks down into two parts: a Memorial Courtyard and a Survivors’ Garden. Before beginning work, Arad was asked to write an essay on forgiveness and his design approach. Arad told The Architect’s Newspaper that his task was to not only relate what had happened that fateful day, but to showcase how the Charleston community and members of the congregation came together in a way that no one expected—with grace and forgiveness. “To be asked to participate in this project and be part of their incredible response was something I felt was an obligation and a huge honor,” he said. “The hard work has already been done by the families of the Emanuel Nine and as an architect, it was my responsibility to find a way to convey this to the visitors of the site.” The Memorial Courtyard, which opens up to Calhoun Street, features two fellowship benches facing each other with high backs that arc up and around. Meant to symbolize sheltering wings, the benches are reminiscent of the circular shape the Emanuel Nine probably sat in the evening they were killed. At the center of the courtyard is a marble fountain with the victims’ names etched into the edge. Water flows from a cross-shaped opening at its core while another cross placed atop a simple altar hovers over the space in the back of the courtyard. A stone pathway connects the courtyard to the Survivors' Garden to the east, which features a green open space surrounded by six stone benches and five trees, each symbolizing the five survivors and the church itself. The garden’s design takes cues from local landscape architecture precedents with fig ivy-covered walls, brick, live oaks, and stone displayed throughout. Arad said both spaces were integral to the sincerity of the memorial. “It would have been wrong to do one without the other,” he said. “The Memorial Courtyard has a quiet, contemplative mood to it dedicated to prayer and memory. In some ways, it’s an analog of the church itself. You can imagine a service being held here. The Survivors’ Garden is about joy as well, but it’s more tucked away.” In order to realize the design for the two-part memorial, Arad’s proposal called for reorganizing the church’s grounds and opening certain areas up to the public and the world. One of the biggest challenges, he said, was that there wasn’t any space for a memorial when the design process began. The design had to feel public, though it is situated in a private space. “I do think it’s a tremendously generous act for this church to do this,” Arad said. “This is the church’s home and yet they're inviting the public in. The vast majority of people who visit this memorial are going to be strangers from away so I believe it will be a pilgrimage site of sorts. As part of our national collective memory, all that happened here has to resonate with and answer the needs of strangers.” A timeline to start construction on the Emanuel Nine Memorial has not been announced yet, but the church has set up a nonprofit to begin fundraising for the estimated $10 million project. Learn more about the design process and what the members of the design committee, clergy, and church congregation have to say about it in a video here.
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Through Stormproof, an open international design competition for building resilient cities, Terreform One has pursued many viable solutions for a stormproof future. Students and professionals were challenged with preparing cities for imminent confrontations of extreme climate change. Twenty finalists were chosen from 168 teams comprised of 310 participants based in over fifteen countries, and by employing complex designs such as barrier islands to mitigate storm and flood impact, participants have recommended solutions that revive and repurpose present infrastructure. Finalists include SLIDE, a resilient scheme for stabilizing mudslides in Los Angeles by recycling debris to produce an opportunity for open ended growth, and Hybrid Edge, an approach that suggests the re-invention of the coastline edge of Dowtown Miami by conflating urban and wetland ecologies. Others, such as A Working Waterfront for NY Harbor utilize shipping infrastructure as coastline defense through an ecologically-minded tactic. The jury involves a renowned panel of designers including Stan Allen, Principal, SAA, former Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, Michael Arad, partner of Handel Architects, and Dan Barasch, Co-Founder of The Low Line, among several others. Jurors will meet to select the winners by the end of the month. Explore all of the finalists here.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the public will soon be able to visit the site, much of which has been fully transformed into the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. While many were dispirited by the years of revisions to and deviations from the Libeskind master plan (which itself had many detractors), AN's recent visit to the plaza, crowded with workers laboring toward the anniversary opening, revealed a vast, contemplative space that we predict will function well as both a memorial and a public space. Next week AN will take a look at the design and offer a preview of the what the public can expect from the space, but, first, a look at how the highly engineered plaza works. With transit tunnels, mechanical systems, and much of the memorial museum located below the surface, the plaza itself could only be approximately six feet thick. Unlike the original World Trade Center Plaza, which many found to be barren and scorching or windswept, the Memorial Plaza is conceived of as an abstracted forest of Swamp White Oaks surrounding two monumental pools outlining the footprints of the original towers. Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker Partners, with Aedas, the plaza will include approximately 400 trees, 215 of which will be in place for the opening. About one third of the plaza has yet to be constructed, while the Santiago Calatrava designed PATH station is being completed. Plaza plantings are arranged in bands, alternating between bands of pavers and bands of trees, grass, and ground cover. This creates both a unifying visual language for the large plaza and a highly rational system for organizing the mechanical and irrigation systems on the site. Between the planting bands, accessible utility corridors house electrical and security equipment. Drainage troughs divide the planting bands from the utility corridors. The whole plaza acts as a vast stormwater collection tray. The plaza is very carefully graded to channel stormwater into the drainage troughs. Rainwater is collected in cisterns below and recirculated in the plaza's drip irrigation system as well as funnelled into the memorial fountain. The trees grow in a lightweight mixture of sand, shale, and worm casings. Growing and installing the plaza's oaks has been a long process. Given the pace of slow construction, the trees, which have been cultivated at a nursery in New Jersey, are much larger now, most standing around 25 feet tall. Trees were hauled onto the site with cranes and then placed in the planting beds with a specially designed lift. Tree roots will spread laterally, filling in the planting bands, and designers believe they will eventually reach 60 to 80 feet in height. The roots are anchored with bracing under the stone pavers. While the PATH station is being completed, the remaining unfinished plaza is still an uncovered construction site, inaccessible to the public. According to Matthew Donham, a partner at Peter Walker, the construction of that portion of the plaza will be even thinner in depth. Aside from an expansion joint, there will be no visible difference between the two sides.