Recess—9/11 Memorial Proposal
A collaboration with Hoon Kim, RISD MFA '08

Recess:
an indentation or hollow on a surface;
a temporary cessation in customary activities;
a remote, secret or secluded place;
a brief suspension of time;
a break between classes, usually a time of rest and play

Every person has a distinct memory of where they were and what they were doing on that particular morning of September 11, 2001. For some, there are also memories of those who were lost. Like Pearl Harbor and John F. Kennedy’s assassination, our memories of 9/11 are tremendously personal but also have collectively evolved as we continue to share our thoughts and grieve together within our own communities, neighborhoods, and cities. So as time passes, our individual memories get blended in with those of others. Our collective memories are therefore constantly changing, strengthening, and accumulating over time.

This memorial proposes an ever-changing collection of such memories in the form of tangible black and white stones. Built into the plaza of the current World Trade Center site, the memorial is a circular indentation, roughly 20 feet below ground level. The surface of this site will be covered with grass, acting both as a park and a memorial at the same time. As visitors descend into this recessed memorial, they will be submersed into a sea of black and white stones. As they walk through and read these engraved memories on the stones, the visitor becomes an active participant of this memorial; the fluid and natural formation of this memorial will continually change depending on those who visit. The interaction with these stones will hopefully provoke more memories for the viewers. The evolving shape of this pool aims to mimic the process of remembering.

The circular shape of the memorial also symbolizes the infinite memories we will continue to place in this pool. A sloping pathway will lead viewers down into the memorial. There is also a path circumscribing the site, so that visitors can experience the memorial both from above and within it. From an aerial view, the memorial resembles a large compass, with the entry path serving as a needle pointing north. In this way, the memorial also pays tribute to the WTC’s role as a directional landmark.

This concavity will first hold 2,973 white stones on its base layer, equivalent to the number of people who died in the tragedy. The names of every victim and hero will be engraved onto these white stones and randomly dispersed into this recessed pool. The black stones will hold the messages and memories of those who submit on our memorial website. This official website will be the only place where visitors can submit their own memories; these submissions will then be displayed in the form of a blog for others to peruse. It is our hope that this website will reflect some aspects of the actual memorial experience at the World Trade Center site. We will collect these memory submissions for one year and engrave every message on a black stone. These black stones will subsequently then be dispersed into the recessed pool. The unloading and dispersion of these stones will occur every year on September 11th until it reaches ground level. This event will be opened to the public and act as a vigil on that day.

The continual stacking of these stones not only allows memory to take a growing physical form, but will also enable visitors to help build this protective covering or “roof” for those who have deceased. Our active contribution to this pool of memories will eventually conceal not only the white stones of names, but the entire circumference of the dedicated site.

This memorial is designed to be both a place to rest and a place to remember. While it is our hope to invite New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy the beauty of this park, our primary wish is to remember the permanence of this tragedy in the form of documented memories from people all over the world.