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National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, located on 6-acres of the World Trade Center site, is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the 2,983 men, women and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

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© Handel Architects and Peter Walker

The National September 11 Memorial, designed by American architect Michael Arad of Handel Architects in conjunction with landscape architecture firm Peter Walker and Partners, was formally dedicated on September 11, 2011, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks. Arad and Walker’s design was selected from 5,201 entries in an open, international memorial contest, initiated by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), as per the specifications of architect Daniel Libeskind.

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© flickr – wallyg

Two reflecting pools, each about an acre in size with 30-foot waterfalls–the largest manmade in waterfalls in North America–cascading down their sides, are set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. The names of 2,983 victims are in inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the memorial pools, arranged based on “meaningful adjacencies”–an algorithm developed by Local Projects which includes proximity at the time of the attacks, company or organization affiliations for those who worked at the World Trade Center or Pentagon, and approximately 1,200 requests from family members.

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© flickr – wallyg

The Memorial Plaza surrounding the pools provides a contemplative escape, with a grove of more than 400 swamp white oak trees, each selected from nurseries within a 500-mile radius of the three attack sites. A small clearing in the grove, known as the Memorial Glade, designates a space for gatherings and special ceremonies.

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© flickr – wallyg

The National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, designed by Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen of Snøhetta, is scheduled to open on or around September 11, 2012. The museum will feature over 110,000 square feet of exhibition space telling the story of the 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts.

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© flickr – wallyg

Handel Architects:

The design of the 9/11 Memorial was selected through an international design competition that attracted over 5,200 entrants from 63 nations. Michael Arad won the competition in 2004, and joined Handel Architects as a Partner shortly after, bringing the skills and talents of the office and its Partners to assist him in developing the project.

The Memorial site is a public space for meditation and contemplation, centered around two reflecting pools that sit in the footprints of the original World Trade Center Towers. Lining the perimeter of each fountain is parapet of victims’ names, arranged and inscribed according to a system of “meaningful adjacencies.” The fountains rest within a new plaza that acts as a sacred ground for those coming to honor the victims, while also integrating the Memorial into the surrounding city.

The pools are clad in Jet Mist granite, and the names panels are made of bronze that has been treated with a ferric based patina. At night, the names are illuminated from within. The project’s elegant simplicity conceals an incredible complexity of architectural design and engineering. The fourteen-acre WTC site will contain, in addition to the Memorial and the Museum, a Visitor Orientation Center, a new PATH train station, a Subway station, an underground retail concourse, an underground road network with security screening areas, five new office towers, and a Performing Arts Center. Most of these projects interlock physically and programmatically with the eight-acre Memorial site and have required close coordination between the various design teams.

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© flickr – wallyg

Peter Walker – PWP Landscape Architecture:

The National September 11th Memorial commemorates the victims of the attacks at the Pentagon, at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the World Trade Center site, both on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. Two gigantic voids – in the footprints of the Twin Towers – and a surrounding forest of oak trees form the core of the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City and provide a place for contemplation and remembrance within this revitalized urban center.

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© flickr – wallyg

Landscape Design


PWP joined Michael Arad in the final stage of the Memorial design competition with a mandate from the jury to humanize the scheme without diminishing the abstraction that had established it as a finalist. The broad scope of the trauma of 9/11 requires that the Memorial use a symbolic language understood by a diverse audience; this language is an integral part of “Reflecting Absence” by Michael Arad and Peter Walker.


Visitors will leave the everyday life of the city and enter into a sacred zone defined by a dense forest of 416 oak trees. Above the limbed-up trunks, a canopy of leaves will provided welcome shade in the heat of the summer and seasonal color in the fall. In the winter the sun will cast shadows through a light tracery of bare branches, and in spring, the trees will express the renewal of nature.

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© Peter Walker


Using a language similar to Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West, the voids render absence visible. In this way, the overwhelming losses of September 11th are given permanent presence. Within the protected space of the forest, visitors will arrive at the two great voids with their thundering waterfalls. After viewing the victims’ names on the bronze parapets of the voids, visitors will move back to the city through the trees and take comfort from the soothing, life-affirming forest.


Through the trunks of the trees the flat plane of the park is visible in its entirety. The density of the trunks extend the apparent depth and size of the plane and at the same time soften the view of the buildings beyond. The horizontal surfaces of the plaza–stone, ground cover, lawn, and steel grating–are patterned to assert and reinforce the flatness of the constructed plane. PWP combined graphic techniques and technical solutions developed through the firm’s long tradition of designing perceptually flat landscapes.

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© Peter Walker


The one-acre voids, cut 30 feet into the site, are lined with waterfalls designed by Dan Euser (http://dewinc.biz), a longtime collaborator of PWP. Using full-scale mock-ups to study the performance of the water, Dan developed a tapered, rounded weir that is both water-and-energy efficient as well as highly visible and beautiful. With the addition of lighting designed by Paul Marantz, the waterfalls are also visible at night.


The Memorial grove will resemble a “natural” forest, until visitors discover that the trees align to form arching corridors in one orientation. The form recalls the arches that architect Minoru Yamasaki placed at the bottom of the original towers. In this way, the grove expresses the shared patterns of nature and humanity.

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© Peter Walker


A grassy clearing within the grove is a quiet space away from the bustle of the plaza. Designed to accommodate ceremonies–specifically, the reading of victims’ names annually on September 11th–the space also provides soft green park space on typical days.


Within the Memorial grove, the varying distances between trees, the placement of benches, and the rhythm of ground-cover beds will create spaces with distinct scale, character, and qualities of light.


PWP studied the paving pattern at full scale in chalk, ultimately arriving at 12” x 60” pavers and 3” x 15” cobbles. The varying density of shadows in the joints between the pavers and the cobbles creates a subtle banding pattern that breaks up the vast flat plane of the Memorial into human-scaled zones.

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© Peter Walker

Davis Brody Bond Architects and planner:

The design and construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center is one of the most significant undertakings in the history of New York City, and a focal point for the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. As Associate Architects, Davis Brody Bond oversaw the design of the 8.5 acre Memorial plaza which includes the two memorial fountains and pools marking the footprints of the absent towers. We are the designers of the Memorial Museum situated directly below the Memorial. When completed, the 121,000 sf Memorial Museum will tell the story of 9/11 through the exhibition of historic aspects of the tragedy including a portion of the famous “slurry wall”, recovered remnants of the “Twin Towers” including steel columns and pieces of the façade, displayed bases of the original tower column bases, the “survivor stair”, the “last column” and destroyed police and fire vehicles recovered from the site following the 9/11 attacks.

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© Handel Architects and Peter Walker

Project Data:

Project name: National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, United States
Coordinates: 40.711626, -74.013317
Type: Memorial & Museum Space
Site Area: 6-acres
Museum Area: 460,330 sf / 42,770 sq m
Competition Year: 2004 Design Competition for World Trade Center Memorial: First Place
Completion Year: 2012
Visit National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s Website: here


  • AIA NY ARCHITECTURE AWARD – Architecture Honor Award
  • 2012 – Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Awards – Liberty Award for Artistic Leadership
  • Travel + Leisure Magazine Awards – Best New Landmark, Parks and Public Spaces
  • LEED Awards – Gold certification

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: National September 11 Memorial & Museum
National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center:

Landscape Architects: Memorial

Project Landscape Architect:

  • Peter Walker, Douglas Findlay, David Walker, Matthew Donham, project team

Design Architect:

  • Handel Architects — Michael Arad and Gary Handel, partners; Amanda Sachs, David Margolis, Robert Jamieson, Cristóbal Canas, and Garrett Brignoli, project team

Architect of Record:

  • Davis Brody Bond Aedas – Steven Davis, Carl Krebs, David Williams, Joseph Grant, Richard Franklin, project team

National September 11 Memorial Museum Entry Pavilion:

  • Architects: Museum – Snøhetta – New York office, 80 Pine Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10005, United States – Craig Dykers, partner in charge; Anne Lewison, project manager; Aaron Dorf, project architect
  • Architect of Record: Adamson Associates International

Text Description: © Courtesy of Handel Architects, Peter Walker, Davis Brody Bond Architects and planner
Images: © Handel Architects, PWP Landscape Architecture, Davis Brody Bond Architects and planner, flickr – wallyg

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National September 11 Memorial & Museum / Handel Architects + Peter Walker
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