Read the September 2008 Columbia Alumni
This month's edition includes a link to join CAA's new social network, as well as opportunities to learn about carbon emissions at Café Science or gape at sea lion pups at the Bronx Zoo.
Sept. 9, 2008
Julie Beckman (GSAPP '01) and Keith Kaseman (GSAPP '01) were fellow students at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) when they met and formed a business partnership and, later, were married. Just four months after celebrating their graduation in 2001, the couple was in New York City—living their dream of becoming professional designers—when planes destroyed the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Seven years later, the husband-and-wife design team is scheduled to attend the official dedication of the Pentagon Memorial, which they designed together.
Still reeling from the tragic events, Kaseman and Beckman were eager for an opportunity to turn their grief into something positive. In June 2002, they learned about an open call for design proposals for a memorial that would honor the victims of the Pentagon tragedy.
"We decided to enter the competition, but didn't tell anyone we were doing it," said Kaseman, "because it was a very personal thing for us. It was our way to inject some positivity into the incredibly negative atmosphere of the time." Kaseman, together with Beckman, runs KBAS, their design firm, and is also an adjunct associate professor at Columbia's GSAPP.
Over the course of two months, the couple dedicated evenings and weekends to completing the proposal, working out of their cramped apartment near Columbia's Morningside campus and a local restaurant. A month later, they were notified that they had been selected, along with five other teams, as finalists from more than 1,100 entries. In early March 2003, they received notice that their proposal was unanimously chosen as the winning design.
The Pentagon Memorial, designed by the Columbia graduates, is organized by the ages of the individuals who lost their lives in the Washington, D.C. tragedy. 184 Memorial Units are uniquely placed along Age Lines parallel with the trajectory of Flight 77—each marking a birth year, ranging from 1998 to 1930. Each individual's name is engraved at the end of projecting beams hovering above a pool of water that glows with light at night.
The realization of the Pentagon Memorial has taken several years and the support of "many people across the country," said Kaseman. "But our confidence to jump deep into the unknown started here at GSAPP, and to rigorously ask questions to end up with the design we have today."
The designers have worked closely with and been supported by family and friends who lost loved ones, many of whom managed the Pentagon Memorial Fund to meet the costs of construction and maintenance. Kaseman and Beckman will be meeting many additional family members for the first time when they take part in the official dedication ceremony this Thursday.
"I have not been able to imagine what it's going to be like to see the Memorial with these family members, people who we worked with closely throughout this entire process," said Kaseman. "We know it will be positive and emotional to meet with these families for the first time. We will probably feel a mix of accomplishment and grief."
The memorial stands on a 1.9 acre of land adjacent to the Pentagon and within view of the impact zone where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building during the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The Pentagon Memorial cost $22 million to construct and an endowment of $10 million will be created to maintain the Memorial forever.
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