How do you demonstrate to future generations the enormity of the devastation incurred that awful day? How do you balance the heartfelt wishes of the multitudes who lost loves ones and create something that is respectful--but not so exceedingly stark that only the bereaved would visit?
A once in a lifetime oppertunity, that over 5,000 designers desired and only one, Michael Arad, was chosen. And he new going in that he would have to "get it right," both in the design phase-- and even more importantly--the execution.
While he may look young for such an awesome responsibility remember, Maya Lin (who served as a judge on this "contest") was only 21 when her design for the Viet Nam War Memorial was chosen over 1,400 others.
And both designs share the same haunting concept of actually seeing the names--all the names-- of the dead.
"Reflecting absence" vividly drives home the point by illustrating the Twin Towers with two large reflecting pools, standing in their former footprint, framed by low walls containing all the names of the victims etched in bronze.
Tonight at Umass, Mr. Arad spoke to a packed crowd of about 120--probably pushing the envelope of what the room is certified to hold. And at first glance, his design doesn't look as though it pushed any envelopes at all. The New York Post headlined their initial reaction with, "It Stinks!"
He opened with a photo of a bakery near Ground Zero he would pass in those early dark days, displaying a cake with a graphic of the Twin Towers and etched in confectionery the motto "We will never forget."
At first he thought it tacky, but then realized the owners were humbly using their own particular skills to commemorate this astonishing event. And as an architect he started to think how he could use his skills to make sure nobody would ever forget.
After a thorough 45 minute presentation, the first question from the audience concerned "the conspiracy" and whether he considered how to incorporate the concept of a "controlled demolition" bringing down those magnificent towers.
Arad cut the Nitwit off with a curt, "This is my presentation, not your. I'm not going to answer that!"
Like the Viet Nam Memorial, "Reflecting Absence" will become a mecca for future generations of Americans--and citizens from the around the world.
Michael Arad. A little background
NY TImes showing a lot more respect than the NY Post