World Trade Center Memorial

2003 - International Competition

New York

Ruggero Lenci (capogruppo/team leader)
Claudio Merler, Nilda Valentin

Our proposal intends to remember the wound inflicted by terrorism on a ground of freedom by creating a unique and symbolic architectural integration of two flows, which go from material to immaterial, from the internal chamber of the Memorial located on the footprint of the North Tower, to the contemplation zone, to be wet by the cascade, located on the footprint of the South Tower. The two continuous flows get integrated one into the other to evoke all the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City, Washington, D.C., of the flight that ended in Shanksville, PA, of the firemen who perished as heroes on duty in the Towers, and of the bombing of February 26th, 1993 making visible the footprints of the original World Trade Center Towers.

In order to find a solution to the dichotomy of acknowledging the “terrible deaths which occurred on this site while looking to the future with hope” (quotation from Daniel Libeskind statement for WTC site plan) and to confirm the values of peace, democracy, faith and hope that sees the International community united with New York City, the present proposal aims to create a special Place which will remain in everyone’s memories, through its being a wound on the process of healing, where the stitches are still visible.

Since the Memorial must represent, on a synthetical way, all the victims as well as all the people whose work and effort has been fundamental to reinitiate this act of healing - such as volunteers, firemen, police, politicians, doctors, nurses, workers, architects, engineers, and many others - our proposal has try to interpret the spirit of “Ground Zero” through both a symbolic and meaningful memorial plaza, and the development of a careful dialogue with the winning project for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

The search for both the development of a place full of meanings and the need for integration with the design issues opened by Mr. Libeskind project brings our proposal to exploit the following aspects:

- Create a flow, from material to immaterial, evoked in his design, from the gate of the cultural building bridging over the footprint of the North Tower, to the footprint of the South Tower wet by the cascade;
- place a focal point in the direction indicated by the acute angle of September 11 Place, that is, where the access to the Memorial site on Liberty Street is located, so resolving also the architectural issue of Liberty wall;
- open a dialogue with the slurry-walls (material) protected by the glazed surfaces that resisted the attack, giving to its transparency a value of sublimation of matter, that becomes similar to water (immaterial);
- interpose a new plane, raised 8 feet from the lower level, which connects to the staircases and escalators located on September 11 Place, inserting an interval between the two levels;

The first issue (material versus immaterial) has been addressed by introducing masses, made of slanted volumes on the site, with a direction that starts from the footprint of the North Tower surmounted by the cultural building, and water, made by a pool placed on the footprint of the South Tower, flowing from the cascade and penetrating into the volumes.
These two systems come to a collision, flowing one into the other, so that the material world looses much of its qualities as long as it penetrates into the water, and the same happens to the immaterial one.
The symbolism beyond it being the need for integration, comprehension and ductility.
The material system assumes the configuration of a stand and that of a slanted plane furrowed by a ramp, both useful to access the Memorial and to house peaceful events, which can include appropriate classic music or Opera representations. Under these volumes, two enclosed spaces to protect the unidentified remains of the victims take place. These internal chambers result to be very much protected, being them covered by two separate roofs: the slanted volumes just described and, above them, the Cultural Building that bridges on top. A large part of the stands appears also to be protected by this bridging building.

The second issue intends to resolve a critical point, that is the fundamental urban corner of Liberty Street, a place not very much considered by Mr. Libeskind design if compared to the other parts of the project. The idea is to insert in this area a group of volumes and planes that generate a towered-chapel in memory of the Firemen, making it become a place of confluence of all visual directions, and of the two pedestrian ramps. The linear ramp furrows these volumes penetrating into them, while the “L” shaped one ends on the basement-plane of the towered-chapel.

Addressing the third issue the objective is to treat the glazed surfaces that protect the slurry-walls as abstract entities that become similar to water, a velarium of transparent matter that dialogues with the pool and the channels of the Memorial.

With the fourth design issue the project introduces in the environment a new plane, a space on which it would be possible, as time makes its slow course, to mount a stage for appropriate representations. This new level will also function as a platform from which overview the lower parts of the esplanade, serving at the meantime as a pause during the visitor’s descensional and ascensional promenade.

In addition, our proposal answers to the five specific requests of the competition.

1 The project recognizes each individual who was a victim of the attacks.
- Victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania;
- Victims of February 26, 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center.
The name of each non terrorist individual perished in the attacks of 1993 and 2001 will be engraved in the stones used to give shape to the fingers of the pool (South Tower) and to the ramp furrowed in the slanted plane (North Tower). Among these, the names of the heroes Firemen perished on duty during the collapse will be engraved on the walls of a memorial specially dedicated to them on the corner of Liberty Street and West Street with the shape of a chapel-tower.

2 The project provides an area for quiet visitation and contemplation.
This area has been designed in the shape of a ramp engraved into the rock of a slanted volume that from Heroes Park descends, in a procession, towards the Memorial plane at 30’ below grade. The stones of which are made the walls of this ramp will be engraved with the names of the victims. This ramp will make possible a quiet visitation and contemplation because it will be opened, but covered, and will have a breathtaking dynamic perspective towards the lower planes of the project, towards the pool, the channels and the chapel-tower. Walking on this ramp, in a procession, will require to cross four times a deep fracture that, like a canyon, separates the two slanted volumes. These small pedestrian bridges symbolize the four aeroplanes used in the September 11 attacks, constituting the special Memorial for the hundreds of innocent victims cowardly brought to death on those flights. From these suspended passages the site will be seen from dramatic points of view, strongly evocating the tragic impacts.

3 The project provides an area for families and loved ones of victims.
A periscope-shaped construction has been introduced in the design in space located on the footprint of the South Tower to provide an area for families and loved ones of victims. It is a place of contemplation, that requires to cross a passage under the water of the pool in order to access into it. Once insight its terraced platform, the feeling will be that of being merged into the water, in an external space partially covered by the cantilevered part of the cultural building, from where to watch at the cascade. It will possible to enter the “periscope”, raise a ramp and experience an higher point of view.

4 The project provides separate accessible space to serve as a final resting-place for the unidentified remains from the World Trade Center site.
A Chamber is located under the slanted volumes of the North Tower. It has access at the lower end of the procession ramp and serve as a final resting-place for the unidentified remains from the World Trade Center site. The Chamber is connected by an external passage which looks into the canal, to a second space located under the slanted volume of the ramp. This second space is connected to the cultural space of Mr. Libeskind project.

5 The project creates a unique and powerful setting that is distinct from other memorial structures like a museum or visitor center.
On the South Tower footprint a second procession takes place. Its configuration recalls the architecture of  Yamasaki WTC elevations, wishing to celebrate at the meantime the memory of the buildings themselves. The four central fingers of the forks penetrate with ramps under the water bringing to 278’ level in a chamber under the pool and the cascade. This place will be a dramatic one, with a glazed ceiling from which to see and to hear the water of the cascade literally falling on the head of people. Air and light will be brought into this chamber by a well-like fracture in the pool. Climbing inside this open-air “well” it will be possible to experience the unique and powerful experience of being inside a depression, that leads to a platform at level 298’, located extremely close to the cascade, getting wet of mist.
The pool where the cascade is located has some 7’ 5” of water and will contain also big fishes to watch at, like in an aquarium, from the glazed ceiling described above and from glazed openings located in the walls of level 288’. This level is the one that takes to the area for families and loved ones of victims described above.
Each fork is also provided with a ramp that raises to 298’,  to the upper level of the pool. From 298’ level, to 288’ one, three slanted planes of water take place: one on each side of this fingered system, the other on the center of it. Down from these planes water will gently flow, to get quite and calm, transforming the power and turbulence of the cascade into the quietness of the pools.

In conclusion, the present proposal has been designed with the following intents:
- to convey historic autenticity of the surviving original elements maintaining well visible the slurry walls;
- to preserve the existing conditions of the World Trade Center site;
- to introduce spaces for public ceremonies and celebrations.
- The project includes appropriate transitions or approaches to, or within, the Memorial.

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