How are we to honor the memory of those who died on that tragic day in September? That question has been on the minds
of almost every citizen and close to the heart of those who lost loved ones. Over the last 2 years, many ideas have been tossed
about, many spontaneous memorials have sprung up around Ground Zero, many controversies have arisen.
The competition starts
In April of 2003 the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC ) formally inaugurated a competition for a memorial
to be placed at Ground Zero. This memorial would be built upon the 4.5 acre part of Ground Zero that held the footprints of
the north and south towers. There were 4 parts to the competition: Registration of entrants, submission of designs, selection
of finalists, selection of the winning design.
By the end of the May 9 registration deadline, 13,683 participants from 94 nations and all fifty states had registered.
The press release quoting LMDC Chairman, John C. Whitehead stated "We had expected significant interest in the memorial competition,
but this response has been extraordinary. It underscores the strong feelings of not only artists, designers and architects,
but, more importantly, men and women of all ages around the globe who may not be professionals yet wish to participate in
this most important undertaking."
All of the participants did not finally submit a design. Yet the number that did was overwhelming. By the June 30 deadline
5,200 submissions were received from 62 nations and 49 states making it the largest design competition in history. It exceeds
the 1421 designs submitted for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Requirements, limitations, controversies
If the number of entrants was unique in the history of memorial contests, so were the requirements and limitations that
had to be worked with, along with the controversies surrounding it. This was a competition not only fraught with opinions
and emotions but it also had very strict regulations.
The LMDC's web site www.wtcsitememorial.org
spelled out the requirements in extensive detail. There was a mission statement, extensive "guiding principles", 5 required
design elements, and the submission format was standardized to a single 30" x 40" foam core board divided into 5 sections
(no other media or 3 dimensional constructs allowed). In order to maintain anonymity in judging, entrants had to make sure
their names were nowhere on the design and were forbidden to reveal their designs to anyone outside of their fellow team members.
The major limitation came from the configuration of the site itself. Wedged 30 feet below ground, the 4.5 acres was overshadowed
by a number of Libeskind's designed structures. There was also one very large/long ramp that penetrated the site from Liberty
St., a waterfall that bounded the northern section of the South Tower's footprint, and the exposed Slurry Wall comprised the
western boundary. A lively discussion on many web sites ensued as individuals who were working on designs posted their complaints
about these elements and the creative work around needed to cope with them. Another problem, one that I as an entrant hated
to have to deal with, was the inaccuracies of the drawings LMDC supplied (they were from Libeskind's firm). Upon checking
measurements of the ground plan, elements listed as certain dimensions, did not match up with the scale presented. Also, the
sketches of the area within Libeskind's other structures, were too "conceptual" and not realistic enough to be able to be
sure of any accuracy.
Three major controversies surfaced. One grew out of the LMDC's requirement that "Should honor the loss of life equally
and the contributions of all without establishing any hierarchies." This was vehemently attacked by relatives and friends
of victims during a public hearing held during May. They felt that firefighters and rescue workers should get separate recognition
along with a listing of their affiliations.
The second controversy developed from a group of family members of the victims who have campaigned to preserve the site
"from bedrock to infinity," of all the area within the Trade Center's walls. That, in effect, negated the whole competition's
space since it was only a part of the larger site and did not include airspace and underground areas. A faction of these individuals
wanted NOTHING built on the site, considering it a burial site, the only one they had for their loved ones who had not been
Downtown residents and businessmen had their own agenda. The wanted to move the memorial from 30 feet below ground, to
ground level. They felt that this would allow residents and downtown workers to cross the site easily to reach the planned
transportation hub, retail stores and office buildings. You can imagine how this inflamed the sensibilities of the previous
So where are we now? There has been very little revealed by the LMDC as to the status of the competition. The originally
targeted September date for the announcement of the 5 finalists has come and gone. LMDC officials recently revealed that due
to the volume of submissions they have to go through, the deadline is now open ended.
Some interesting insights into the judging process, however, was revealed in a special TV program "The Rebuilding of
Ground Zero" presented by the Discovery channel on Sunday September 7. Here are some of the revelations:
- All entries were screened for anthrax, bombs and chemical agents. They were then shipped to an undisclosed location where
they could be catalogued and then viewed by the jurors.
- Each entry was photographed for the record and scrutinized to make sure it met the basic requirements.
Then a number of the jurors made comments (these are not direct quotes, but only paraphrases):
- It is now the largest ever memorial competition in the WORLD.
- The scope of this response shows us the worldwide impact of 9/11.
- This competition is a vital part of coming to grips with the tragedy of 9/11.
- All of these submissions are a way of thanking us for an opportunity to remember.
- Juror Maya Lin urged that a public display be held of ALL the 5200 submissions in order for the public to be able to see
this emotional outpouring of responses. She said that some of the submissions had been made solely for the purpose of
making an emotional statement and as a way to remember the tragic day.
On August 19, Newsday reported that the memorial judges will now chose 8 finalists. Each team (entries could be submitted
by a team of individuals or by a single individual) would receive $100,000 to further develop the designs into models and
three-dimensional computerized designs. These finalists will be chosen some time this Fall.
Sometime in this third year, we will have a memorial design. But will it become THE final design, the one that will actually
be built on that hallowed ground? Stay tuned.
c2003 Leona M Seufert