Low Plaza

Architecture Alumni Team Creates Design for Sept. 11 Pentagon Memorial

By Kristin Sterling

Over the past few months, Americans, especially New Yorkers, closely followed the decision-making process for redeveloping the World Trade Center site with the selection of Daniel Libeskind's "Memory Foundations." But Columbia architecture alumni Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman have been preoccupied with another September 11 memorial -- the Pentagon tribute. On March 3 they were named winning designers for the 2-acre memorial site near the spot where the Pentagon attack occurred, and just across the highway from Arlington National Cemetery.

Their design, "Light Benches" was selected from more than 1,100 entries worldwide and is expected to be completed in September 2004. This is the first non-academic project that the pair worked on together.

"We are immensely honored and overwhelmingly touched," said Kaseman at the press conference. "We are truly honored to be given the opportunity to develop the idea we had and that the distinguished jury saw in it a way for family members, colleagues and friends of all of those whose lives were lost, and the nation, to deal with the tragedy that unfolded here at the Pentagon."

The memorial will include 184 benches with the name of each victim engraved. Each bench will be positioned according to the age of the victim, progressing from the youngest, age 3, to the oldest, age 71. Each bench will have a glowing light pool set underneath. Benches honoring the 125 Pentagon victims will face the building and the 59 benches of Flight 77 victims will face the airplanes flight path.

"[The memorial] stands as a place of common memory and also makes an effort to note individual circumstances of the victims' lives -- whether they were uniformed or civilian personnel at the Pentagon or passengers on Flight 77," said Terry Riley, design jury chair and chief curator of design and architecture at the Museum of Modern Art. "We were impressed with the way in which the field of markers will have a presence from the Pentagon itself, the highway and air, in daylight and night, in addition to being a beautiful and solemn place for the visitor."

In discussing their thought process to create the design, Beckman said, "It was clear to us that this had to be a place like no other place. The memorial had to be unlike any other memorial, because 9/11 was like no other day, and the memorial had to convey that idea."

Beckman said she and Kaseman worked to create a "solemn but inviting place" that would "provoke personal interpretation on a meaningful level, rather than prescribing how visitors should feel or think."

"We wanted to fill the space with evidence of life," she said, explaining the decision to surround the perimeter with will tall grass and maple trees. The ground surface will be made of stabilized gravel -- hard enough to roll wheelchairs and strollers, but "soft and crunchy enough to hear your own footsteps," according to Beckman.

Families of victims praised the design. Stephanie Dunn, who was pregnant when her husband died in the attack, said "the future is the one thing that is very important to me -- not 10 years, but 100 years -- when we aren't here and can't describe who our loved ones were. We want people to be able to go someplace and feel their presence. It is a beautiful resemblance of what those who died represent."

Published: Mar 24, 2003
Last modified: Mar 21, 2003

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