Pentagon memorial plans considered

Posted 12:10 p.m. Oct. 23

by Bernard Pollack

Architect Edwin Zawadzki watched the September 11th attacks from his apartment one block from the World Trade Center. Like many others, Zawadzki sought ways to turn such a horrific experience into something constructive.

When he saw the chance to enter a contest to design the September 11th Pentagon memorial, he jumped at the opportunity, only to find out weeks later that he was chosen as one of six finalists from a pool of over eleven hundred applicants.

“Steelworkers had the ability to courageously clear the site, as an architect I have the ability to design. This was one way that could help me internalize and deal with what had happened,” he said.

Zawadki, co-founder of the Brooklyn based architecture firm Institudesign, joined colleague Mason Wickham in trying to find a way a respectful and innovative way to honor the victims.

Their memorial, if chosen by the Department of Defense, would be erected 165 feet west of the west facade of Pentagon, the same side that was partially destroyed after American Airlines Flight 93 slammed into the building, killing 184 people. Zawadki and Wickman came up with the concept of a giant table surrounded by benches representing each victim.

“The concept was to create something more then a marker of the event, we felt that a table would symbolize discourse, inspire citizenship, and impart the values of democracy. We hope that 184 benches will graphically serve to help others comprehend the magnitude of the loss we endured on September 11th,” he said.

Michael Meredith, another finalist, is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and writes for Artforum Magazine. For his design, he envisions a stool with the names of the victims inscribed around it resting starkly in the middle of a grove of cherry trees.

“When designing the memorial, it was important that this place was conceived as something that is about our collective social/political ideal of individual freedom and democracy, a place for all of us to reflect, looking backwards, while reiterating fundamental ideals that will establish our future,” says Meredith.

The other four finalists also tried to focus on creating a monument that offer a space for reflection. Jean Koeppel and Tom Kowalski’s design features 184 pieces of glass where visitors could then write messages on the glass that would be naturally wiped clean each day. Similarly, Jacky Bowring of New Zealand calls for 184 boxes similar to a planes “black box” resembling flight recorders with mirrors. Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman of New York proposed a memorial of 184 symbols arrayed from left to right manner beginning with the youngest victim. Shane Williamson of Toronto created a monument composed of blocks with the names of victims inscribed on them pointed in the direction of the plane’s flight path.

Public Affairs Spokesperson for the Pentagon Memorial Mary Beth Thompson says that the victims’ families were consulted and were actively involved in choosing the finalists. Before the finalists were chosen, the families were invited to see entries before the jury saw them, and they put comments in a book that the jury consulted before making their decision.

“They created a family steering committee and issued a joint statement on what they felt the memorial should represent. One family member of a victim participated as a non-voting member of the jury,” she says.

Among the jury were Harold Brown and Melvin Laird, both former Secretaries of Defense, artists Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Mary Miss Walter Hood and landscape architect Roger Martin.

The six finalist designs will be displayed at the National Building Museum in Washington, and each finalist will receive a $20,000 stipend toward refining their work.

A winning design will be chosen in December, with the goal of completing construction of the memorial to the 184 victims by Sept. 11, 2003.

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