National September 11 Memorial

Client National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Location New York City, NY
Project Type Public & Cultural
Status Completed in 2011

The National September 11 Memorial is designed to foster the democratic values of public assembly that played such a pivotal role in the city’s collective response to the events of 9/11.

The National September 11 Memorial is an eight acre plaza set within the dense urban fabric of Lower Manhattan, where the former World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. The Memorial Plaza is an integral part of the sixteen acre redeveloped World Trade Center Complex, and it reaches and connects the site to the city beyond.

The Memorial Plaza forms an eight acre clearing in the middle of the city and is vaulted by a permeable canopy of close to four hundred swamp white oak trees. As visitors to the memorial make their way towards the center of this space, they encounter the two reflecting pools that deeply puncture the vast flat expanse of the plaza, and form empty vessels. They are recessed thirty feet into the ground and are lined by waterfalls, delineating the location of the former towers. The voids are absence made present and visible.

Surrounding each acre-sized void is an eight-foot wide and two-foot high water table that serves as the source of the waterfalls. The serrated metal edge of the weir channels the water into separate streams and evokes the haunting loss of thousands of individual lives and the collective loss suffered by all with its billowing curtain of water composed of thousands of individual strands of water.

The names of the victims are incised into darkly patinated bronze panels and appear as shadows during the day, marked by the absence of material. At night, the hovering wing-like profile of the panels is illuminated from within, lighting each name with a soft glow. The panels are simple in appearance but are actually quite complex, with precisely engineered and completely concealed heating, cooling, lighting and thermal expansion mechanisms. The names are carefully composed in a system of “meaningful adjacencies” that emerged when every family of a victim was asked to participate in the design process by suggesting what other victims’ names should be placed adjacent to the name of the person that they lost. Over twelve hundred individual requests were made and close to year of intense design work was required. The final arrangement that emerged placed each name in a physical location in the memorial that is unique and personal.

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National September11 Memorial 1

The core principal that served as a foundation for the design of the Memorial was the belief in the resiliency of public space and its important civic function as a vessel for assembly by a people in a democracy.

The Memorial's design sprang from the firsthand and searing experience of witnessing individuals in a city coming together as a community in its public spaces to support one another and look savagery in the eye with courage, compassion and stoicism.

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2014 A+ Award Popular Choice - Architizer Award of Excellence - Society of American Registered Architects 2013 Coverings Installation and Design (CID) Award - CID Merit Award in Cultural Category, Global Best Projects - ENR National Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design - AIA National 2012 American Architecture Award - The Chicago Athenaeum Award of Excellence - AIA New York State Architecture Honor Award - AIA / New York Best of the Best Landscape/Hardscape/Urban Design Award - ENR National Honor Award in General Design - The American Society of Landscape Architects  Best Landscape/Hardscape Award - ENR New York 2011 Best New Landmark, Parks and Public Spaces - Travel+Leisure Magazine Diamond Award for Structural Systems - ACEC Liberty Award for Artistic Leadership - Lower Manhattan Development Council


Design Architect

Project Team

Michael Arad, Gary Handel, David Margolis, Amanda Sachs, Ana Basalo, Cristobal Canas, Fred Alvarez, Garrett Brignoli, Robert Jamieson

Design Partner(s)

Architect of Record - Davis Brody Bond Landscape Architect - PWP Landscape Architecture

Photography & Video

Joe Woolhead Jin Lee, Courtesy of National September 11 Memorial & Museum