REFLECTING ABSENCE SELECTED FOR WORLD TRADE CENTER MEMORIAL
Lower Manhattan Development Corp.  /  Reuters file
‘Reflecting Absence,’ pictured in an artist’s rendering, features two reflecting pools of water on the footprints of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/7/2004 8:32:31 AM ET 2004-01-07T13:32:31

“Reflecting Absence,” created by New York designer Michael Arad, was chosen Tuesday for the World Trade Center memorial. But relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that destroyed the Trade Center criticized the jury for rushing too quickly to endorse an uninspiring design.

The decision, reached Monday night during a marathon 12-hour meeting, was announced until Tuesday by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency overseeing the rebuilding of the site.

The chairman of the 13-member jury, Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corp., a charitable foundation, hailed the design as “a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life [in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack] and its regeneration. Not only does this memorial creatively address its mandate to preserve the footprints, recognize individual victims and provide access to bedrock, but it also wonderfully reconnects this site to the fabric of its urban community.” 

Gregorian said Arad’s design “had evolved significantly” since it was first submitted. He did not say how radically it had been altered, but he noted in passing that design architect Peter Walker had joined Arad’s team.

Designer overjoyed
A jubilant Arad said he was surrounded by well-wishers after learning his that plan was chosen. "I just have so many people in the room right now," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

The memorial, consisting of two reflecting pools and a paved stone field, will remember all of the victims of the Sept. 11 attack, including those killed at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and aboard the hijacked airliners. It will also honor the six people killed in the 1993 bombing at the trade center.

Video: ‘Reflecting Absence’

The memorial will be one of two focal points at the trade center site, along with the 1,776-foot glass skyscraper known as the  Freedom Tower. Four other buildings are planned where the trade center once stood.

The jury, which included Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin and the widow of a trade center victim, took eight months to pick the winning design from 5,201 submissions. They toasted their late-night decision with champagne.

Family concerns
Since the eight designs were announced Nov. 19, reaction has been generally negative, with critics complaining that the proposals were too generic and failed to evoke the horror of the 2001 attack on the trade center.

Anthony Gardner, who lost his brother in the attack and is a member of a coalition of family groups, said he was disappointed that the jury moved so soon.

“The public, including the coalition, raised a lot of concerns about these designs,” Gardner said. “They were sterile and didn’t communicate the enormity.”

The Coalition of 9/11 Families issued a statement calling for a new competition.

“Rather than settle for the uninspiring design announced today, we believe the best course of action is to begin anew, by inviting a fresh batch of submissions is the better course of action,” it said.

The design “does not meet our criteria and it does not meet the public's expectations,” it added. “We demand a new contest. Our nation deserves better than this.”

The memorial, part of the larger redevelopment at the 16-acre trade center site, will accompany a 1,776-foot glass skyscraper that twists into the sky. The signature skyscraper, called the Freedom Tower, would be the tallest in the world, organizers say.

The tower design was unveiled last month.

Three on short list
Two other proposals emerged as possible winners before Monday’s meeting: “Garden of Lights” and “Passages of Light: the Memorial Cloud,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

“Garden of Lights” would have included a public area filled with lights, one for each victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The three-level memorial, designed by Pierre David, Sean Corriel and Jessica Kmetovic, was to have had a garden on the top and a private area for families of the victims at the twin towers’ footprints, connected by a path and a stream of water.

“Passages of Light,” by Gisela Baurmann, Sawad Brooks and Jonas Coersmeier, included an open-air structure with cathedral-like vaults and a glass walkway and would have had an altar for each victim.

MSNBC’s Alex Johnson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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