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January 8, 2004

Message to Families of September 11 Members from Tom Roger, FOS11 President concerning the LMDC's memorial design choice of "Reflecting Absence":

As announced in the press release listed below from the LMDC, the choice of the "Reflecting Absence" memorial design was made yesterday. Unfortunately, the proposed changes that were made to the original design will not be shown until they unveil the new model next week. Until we see the final plan, what we know about “Reflecting Absence” is from the original submittal and some of the recent disclosures that have been made about changes from the initial plan. The design for ``Reflecting Absence'' was originally submitted by Michael Arad, an architect with the city's Housing Authority. Its primary features are two sunken reflecting pools in the middle of a large open plaza dotted with pines. The design also included a lower level where visitors look through a curtain of water toward the pools and a random listing of the victims' names. Arad stated in his description of the concept that he aimed to ``create a place where we may all grieve and find meaning.''   Vartan Gregorian, a member of the jury that selected the design and President of the Carnegie Corp. of New York, said in a statement yesterday the plaza's design had evolved to include "teeming groves of trees,'' and said the Berkeley, California-based landscape architect Peter Walker had joined the project. In its powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the twin towers, `Reflecting Absence' has made the gaping voids left by the towers' destruction the primary symbol of loss,'' Gregorian said in the statement yesterday.

Board member Nikki Stern and I served as members of the Families Advisory Council for the LMDC Memorial Process and also participated on the Mission Statement and Program Description Committees for the design competition. We were not members of the jury that selected the final design, but we feel that the jury was well-qualified and dedicated to the task. Having participated actively in the process prior to the jury evaluation process, we feel that jury's efforts were commendable and that the selection of this design and the proposed changes appear to be a good start. However, it is important we all recognize, including members of the LMDC, which is overseeing the development of an appropriate memorial,that this "improvement process" of the selected design, is not over.   There are at least two major issues that we know continue to exist with the proposed "Reflecting Absence" design that we will want to have addressed prior to accepting it as being totally responsive to the families' interests. These issues include:  1) the fact that the slurry wall is NOT exposed at grade level and 2) the cultural buildings have been relocated to the Southwest corner of the site, which in turn eliminates a “buffer” between a quiet memorial space and the busy retail and commercial areas on Greenwich and also potentially results in the memorial being in shadow most of the time – clearly not the intention of the original site plan proposed by Studio Libeskind..

You may have already read some of the quotes from other 9/11 family groups or family members that are unhappy with the selection process and final design choice and are calling for starting the process all over again. We do not feel that this is either appropriate or necessary.   And in response to these criticisms, I would say that they are premature since the final design has not been disclosed and that people need to have some trust in the competence of the people who served on the jury since they included many distinguished and highly qualified people. (see articles listed below). The fact that it is “minimalist” is certainly not a negative – a simple statement can often be quite elegant and powerful, as the Vietnam and many other memorials have shown, and can have a profound impact upon people who may bring a different set of emotional experiences to a place.   And the addition of a museum, which we trust will be appropriately reinstated into the concept, will allow the story of 9/11 and its devastation to be more fully described.

On behalf of all the members of the Board of Directors of FOS11, I am writing this letter to you because I feel it is very important that FOS11 be supportive of the selection process and the final design choice, especially since there are a number of issues that remain to be worked out with this design regarding the two specific ones mentioned about as well as how it fits into the overall site plan with access to bedrock, buffering from other buildings and site activities, groupings of names, etc. In this context, calls to “start again” are premature. Instead, please focus your attention on those specific issues we've mentioned.  

We will continue to monitor the process and keep watch when the details of the revised plan are unveiled next week. And may we suggest you read these well-regarded pieces for further insight into the process.  

Thank you.
Tom Roger
Families of September 11

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The Winning Memorial  (NY Times Editorial, January 8, 2004)
Published: January 8, 2004
Late on Tuesday afternoon, the 13-member jury appointed to select a 9/11 memorial design announced that it had chosen the plan called Reflecting Absence, by Michael Arad and Peter Walker. To many New Yorkers, including us, that choice came as something of a surprise, even though Reflecting Absence had been among three plans - out of eight finalists - that the jury was re-examining most seriously. Our initial reaction to Reflecting Absence was discomfort with its starkness. But initial reactions do not matter at this point. The design has evolved significantly, with guidance from the jury, since it was first presented. The details of the reworked plan are not scheduled to be released until next week, and even those will be subject to change as time passes.
We suspect - even though this design was not our first choice - that we will see in the final results the intelligence and conscientiousness this jury has shown all along. And it is possible to draw a few tentative conclusions even at this point. The first is that in choosing Reflecting Absence, the jury has put the task of memorializing 9/11 front and center. The core of that design is two striking voids, which, in their simplicity, movingly recall the work of the sculptor Michael Heizer. Though the memorial will name the dead, the real evocative power of this plan will come not from the individual names but from the emotional focus those two voids will provide.
It's encouraging to note that Mr. Walker, a landscape architect, has joined Mr. Arad, who is an architect with the New York City Housing Authority, on this project.
Mr. Arad's original plan envisioned towering white pines dotted around the site. We hope that Mr. Walker has revised that aspect of the plan considerably, increasing the presence of nature and softening the starkness of what felt, in the original presentation, like an open plaza. We look forward to seeing the new details of Reflecting Absence next week, and we congratulate Mr. Arad, Mr. Walker and the members of the jury.
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For Immediate Release                                                                          www.RenewNYC.com 
January 6, 2004
Contact: Matthew Higgins/Joanna Rose                                                   (212) 587-9339                                                                                                   
WORLD TRADE CENTER SITE MEMORIAL COMPETITION JURY ANNOUNCES WINNING DESIGN: 
Reflecting Absence
The 13-member World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition jury today announced the winning memorial design, Reflecting Absence by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, who has joined the team.  The design was selected from among 5,201 submissions and eight finalists. The revised design will be unveiled in a public presentation next week.
Information about the design, biographical information about the designer, and other information about the competition and jury is available at www.WTCSiteMemorialCompetition.org.  Note: The renderings, animations and descriptions do not reflect significant changes made to the design, which will be unveiled next week.
On behalf of the jury, jury chair Vartan Gregorian issued the following statement announcing the winning design:
 "In April 2003, the LMDC launched an international competition to design a memorial at the World Trade Center site honoring the memory of all those killed in two terrorist attacks on the United States. The competition itself - open to anyone, anywhere in the world - affirmed the democratic spirit this nation embodies. More than 5,201 submissions were received from 63 nations - and the jury considered every one of them. In November, eight finalist designs were selected for further consideration, all of which offered powerful ways to remember what we lost. After months of deliberation and debate, we have selected a winning design from among the eight finalists: Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad and landscape design architect Peter Walker, who has joined the team.
In its powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the Twin Towers, "Reflecting Absence" has made the gaping voids left by the Towers' destruction the primary symbol of loss.  While these voids still remain empty and inconsolable, the surrounding plaza's design has evolved to include teeming groves of trees, traditional affirmations of life and rebirth.  The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life 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. 
The winning design has evolved significantly since the eight finalists were placed on exhibit at the Winter Garden, and will evolve still over time. Over the next several days, the design will be updated to reflect several changes, and new presentation materials will be created. The new design will be unveiled in a public presentation to take place next week.
On behalf of all the jurors, we congratulate Michael Arad and Peter Walker on this winning design.  We also thank the leadership of the LMDC for supporting the work of the jury and for absolutely respecting its authority and autonomy. 
The jury would also like to thank the finalists, and all 5,201 competitors for taking part in this competition. Your contribution will forever serve as a monument to our shared loss."
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 Reflecting Absence designer Michael Arad released the following statement:
 "I am very honored and overwhelmed by the news that the jury has selected my design. I hope that I will be able to honor the memory of all those who perished, and create a place where we may all grieve and find meaning.
I will do my best to rise to the enormity of the task at hand. It is with great humility that I regard the challenges that lie ahead - and it is with great hope that I will find the strength and ability to meet them."
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Reflecting Absence landscape design architect Peter Walker released the following statement:
 "First of all, I want to congratulate Michael for his powerful and unique concept and for including us on the team.  I very much appreciate the jury's thoroughness and care, and I thank them for the opportunity to work on what will be the most important landscape of our career.  Finally, I want to thank the families; working on this memorial will give us the chance to express the sympathy and admiration we feel for all those who suffered from the events of September 11th and the 1993 bombing."
 
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How Winning 9/11 Memorial Acquired Its 2nd Designer
By DAVID W. DUNLAP and GLENN COLLINS
Published: January 8, 2004  (NY Times)
hen a proposal called Reflecting Absence was submitted last year to the World Trade Center memorial site competition, there was one name on it: that of Michael Arad, a young architect for the New York City Housing Authority.
When Reflecting Absence was announced on Tuesday as the winner of the six-month competition, there was another name: Peter Walker of Berkeley, Calif., who has 45 years of experience in the teaching and practice of landscape architecture.
Though Mr. Arad attracted the jurors' attention with the concept of great pool-filled voids where the twin towers stood, it was Mr. Walker's greening of the surrounding plaza that sealed their choice. The two now share the design credit and the contract, even though Mr. Walker joined only last month.
Having survived a winnowing from 5,201 entries to 8 finalists to 3 significantly redesigned favorites, Reflecting Absence wound up as the choice of most, though not all, of the jurors in a 12-hour meeting on Monday at Gracie Mansion.
The success of Reflecting Absence — and the ultimate failure of Garden of Lights and Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud designs — was attributed to many factors by six people closely connected to the process, who spoke to reporters on the condition that their names and their affiliations not be divulged.
For its part, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation declined yesterday to offer any comment on the memorial deliberations. Jurors are forbidden by their contract with the corporation to speak with journalists until the process is completed when the final design is made public next week.
Public attention has focused on the possibly persuasive role played by one juror, Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. She sketched out a proposal for the memorial in The New York Times Magazine of Sept. 8, 2002, that bears a superficial resemblance to Reflecting Absence.
But those who were interviewed said that though Ms. Lin's recent advocacy of Reflecting Absence was forceful and entirely consistent with her minimalist design sensibility, no one person could have commandeered the jury.
Instead, they said, Ms. Lin, though committed to the Arad design, was self-effacing and gave in on many points she had favored. At least four other jurors made the case for the Arad design aside from Ms. Lin, they said.
All 13 jurors had strong ideas and opinions, and they were were given ample opportunity to express them and did so, they said. But they also described deliberations that were largely collegial, even though sharp differences persisted through Monday, as Passages of Light remained a contender until the end. (Garden of Lights, they generally agreed, had suffered so much from changes that it was no longer as highly regarded, especially after its creators' presentation to the jury on Monday.)
What mattered most to jurors about Reflecting Absence — the degree depended somewhat on who was speaking — was the way in which its design spoke more clearly than other entries to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001: the pancaking collapse of the twin towers into their own foundations.
By expressing the towers as voids 30 feet deep and almost an acre in extent exactly where the 110-story buildings stood, jurors believed, the design would convey the magnitude of the event not only to a generation that will never forget that day but to future generations that will have to learn.
The sheer size of the voids would also allow visitors to experience something of the physical dimension of the trade center towers. Jurors were not unaware, even as they met in secret, of the publicly expressed hunger for a memorial design specific both to the site and the event.
They were also concerned that Mr. Arad's original concept called for a plaza around the voids that was too barren and lifeless. They made it clear that a landscape architect of high caliber would have to be involved in the project, though they did not specify Mr. Walker.
The development corporation was said to have furnished a list of choices to Mr. Arad that included Mr. Walker.
Vartan Gregorian, the chairman of the memorial jury, summarized the result of their collaboration in a brief public statement issued on Tuesday.
"While these voids still remain empty and inconsolable, the surrounding plaza's design has evolved to include teeming groves of trees, traditional affirmations of life and rebirth," he said. "The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its regeneration."
The jurors' concern about landscaping began long before the recent refinements. They conceived their task as finding a design for a memorial site — not just a memorial — meaning that it had to fit into the surrounding streets and sidewalks and into the larger context of Lower Manhattan.
That was reflected in the eight finalists announced in November. All turned their back, in one way or another, on the idea that the entire memorial area could be depressed 30 feet below street level, which was embodied in Daniel Libeskind's overall trade center design concept.
Instead, from the very beginning, the jury publicly invited architects to challenge the site design plan. They said they deliberately issued a direct invitation to break its boundaries.
The proposals that survived the first winnowing called for ample space at sidewalk level across the 4.5-acre memorial site, bounded by West and Liberty Streets and the re-created Fulton and Greenwich Streets.
Some jurors also felt that in its boldness, Reflecting Absence stood a better chance of serving as a counterpoint to the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, across Fulton Street, whose scale was made quite apparent when the jurors saw a model on Monday night.
Jurors set a threshold of 10 votes for acceptance. Reflecting Absence came close in the first polling on Monday morning, but Passages of Light had supporters who appreciated it as a spectacular work of architecture. To its advocates, the canopy formed by undulating translucent tubes suggested a cathedral; to its detractors, it suggested a cave.
Garden of Lights, in which the site was to be covered by prairies and apple orchards, suffered from concerns over its underground "altar" rooms and the limited access that would be provided across the grounds.
The final vote between Reflecting Absence and Passages of Light was not unanimously in favor of the concept by Mr. Arad and Mr. Walker, though those interviewed would not specify what it was.
Besides Dr. Gregorian and Ms. Lin, the jurors are Paula Grant Berry, Susan K. Freedman, Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, Michael McKeon, Julie Menin, Enrique Norten, Martin Puryear, Nancy Rosen, Lowery Stokes Sims, Michael Van Valkenburgh and James E. Young.