On Monday night, the four design teams gave 10-minute presentations to explain their memorial concepts. The event gave the public its first opportunity to ask questions of the designers. The finalists are some of the most talented artists and designers in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area (For full profiles of each team, go to www.hoboken911.com). The meeting was hosted by Raymond Gastil, executive director of Van Alen Institute, a Manhattan-based organization that assists in planning projects in public spaces. The finalists were selected through a professional juried design competition organized by the Memorial Fund committee and Buff Suzanne Kavelman, the director of Smithsonian's National Design Awards at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
"We want this memorial to honor the vital lives that were cut short on 9/11," said Kavelman Monday night. In addition to raising more than $30,000 through a grassroots mailing and community fundraisers, the Memorial Fund committee recently received a $500,000 state grant. The project is expected to cost between $650,000 and $750,000, which means the Memorial Fund committee is still accepting donations.
A fluid process
If Monday's meeting is any indication, reaching a community consensus on what should be erected is not a simple task. Several residents and family members criticized the four designs, which were selected from a pool of more than 100. They said they were too large, could obstruct the view of the skyline, take up too much of Pier A Park, and focused more on the artists' high concepts than the compelling emotions that flowed following 9/11.
Mayor David Roberts, who is the committee's honorary chair, said Wednesday that the public comment period is essential to the process and input is an important step on the path to the final project. "The September 11th Memorial Committee has worked diligently and meticulously for over two years to select the design finalists," said Roberts. "More importantly, the design selection process has been open to the community with periodic public hearings to incorporate the opinions of Hoboken residents, especially those touched by the tragic events that unfolded on 9/11. Their comments will be taken into consideration as we approach the selection of a final design."
The jury will have the flexibility to make changes, said Councilman Richard Del Boccio, who sits on the committee. "We have been working on this for two years and we're ready to move forward," he said, "but it's important to remember that we have the right to modify any or all of the design elements. We are carefully listening to what people are saying and are willing and ready to make modifications where necessary." Kavelman said the process is open to revision. "These are not the final designs," she said. "We very much value the democratic process and hope to proceed with a spirit of collaboration."
Proposals have some concerned
The Memorial Fund committee has many constituencies to please, and many residents were unhappy with or critical of the four designs that were presented Monday. "Sometimes less is more," remarked one member of the audience. Several people said that the proposals do not mesh with the human scale in the city.
"Please don't mess up Pier A Park with obtrusive structures in the name of a 9/11 memorial," added resident Sada Fretz. "The mutilated skyline as viewed now from Pier A is the best reminder of that atrocity." She added that dedicating a fountain or the placing of a simple plaque would be more appropriate than a massive memorial. After her comments, several members of the audience applauded and voiced their support for a smaller memorial.
Some individuals remarked that the most potent memorial of what happed was during the days following the attacks, was when concerned residents made simple but moving gestures of dropping flowers, leaving letters and lighting candles. Community activist Daniel Tumpson added that he worries about obstructing the views of Manhattan. "I think all four of these proposals have completely missed the mark," said Tumpson.
The proposed location of the memorial was also questioned by several in the audience. Hoboken resident John Branciforte, who is also a member of the city's Zoning Board, said the end of Pier A is the most trafficked portion of the park, which might conflict with designs that are meant for quiet reflection. "I would prefer that the memorial be some place to go and sit quietly," said Branciforte.
More opportunity for comment
According to committee officials, there are several different avenues through which to submit comments. The finalists' designs are currently online at www.hoboken911.com. Comments about the designs can be made on the web site via a survey. Copies of the surveys are also available at the mayor's office in City Hall. The city will also host a table in front of City Hall at the Arts and Music Festival on May 2. Call (201) 420-2222 for more information. Comments from the designers
The FLOW Group
The FLOW Group brings together five award-winning professionals from art, architecture, engineering and lighting design. Their design includes an island that extends off the northeast corner of the pier. The island would be moored and connected to Pier A by a small foot bridge. A large circular wind sculpture made of Teflon-wire mesh would move with the breezes that blow down the Hudson, producing a type of "wind choreography," said the designers.
In the middle of the island, the designers currently plan to place a hole circled with cast glass with the names of the Hoboken victims etched. On the pier itself, as one approaches the island, there would be a wall with narrative elements, such as quotes from family members of the victims.
Artist Janet Echelman said that one aspect that sets this plan apart from the others is that it is situated on the northeast corner of the pier, while the rest on are in the southeast side, the side closet to the World Trade Center site. Buy setting it on an island, and away from the southeast corner, Echelman said that can become a quite place for reflection. We wanted it to be a place of contemplation that brings those who visit in touch with the larger cycles of life," she said. She added that it is important to keep the recreational activities and the memorial separate.
Ralph Lerner and Kate Orff
Architect Ralph Lerner and landscape architect Kate Orff have more than 30 years of combined experience in the fields of architecture and urban design. Their design called "Memorial Lights" is composed of 53 copper poles with lamps directed horizontally. "Each copper pole will be inscribed with the name of a Hoboken victim," said Lerner. He added that the poles would complement the copper façade of the nearby by ferry terminal. The poles would be 60 feet tall and line a "weathered steel pathway" and would be connected by a steel band, which they call a "shroud."
As the memorial ages the patina of the copper would develop, signifying the passage of time since Sept. 11. According to the design team, the light would have an exceptionally long life span and would need replacing only once every 20 years.
Krzysztof Wodiczko and Julian Bonder
Artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and architect Julian Bonder's design is a memorial path that runs on the southern edge of Pier A. The walkway would have Hoboken's victims' names inscribed and could lightly vibrate if there are future global traumas. The idea is that the vibrating is an "echo" of the emotions that people felt on 9/11 and could signify suffering that might be happening elsewhere in the world. "This element will connect with life and the events that will unfold in the future," said Wodiczko. He added that instead of being a static monolith, it would be responsive those who visit, and that the design would signify a global "collective memory, bonding and sense of community."
Volunteers overseeing the memorial would control the activation of the vibrating elements. Two specially designated areas also would bracket the path. At its head, closest to the pier's entrance, would be an open gathering space with an area for sitting. At the far end of the path, there would be an enclosed structure that the designers call a contemplative space. The room would have over 50 windows cut into it, one for every victim from Hoboken. The small openings would afford visitors only a limited view of Manhattan in order to draw focus to the scene of the attacks.
Brian Tolle and Frederic Schwartz
Artist Brian Tolle and architect Frederic Schwartz, who both have a distinguished history of design in the New York area and beyond, designed a multi-tiered, 45- by 100-foot rectangular-shaped memorial that the public would be able to climb via a series of ramps suspended by cables. Names of the Hoboken victims would by engraved in the guardrails of the ramps. The proposed memorial, called "Portrait of Hoboken" will frame the New York City skyline when looked at from a distance.
Tolle and Schwartz wanted their design to be interactive so that those who view it are able to participate in "a direct way." " 'Portrait of Hoboken' is a living memorial," said Schwartz. "The frame provides a place for Hoboken to join in remembrance and healing. Reflecting the light by day and glowing from within at night, the stainless steel frame will be a moving symbol on the horizon that identifies Hoboken and its citizens."
After witnessing the tragedies of Sept. 11 firsthand, Schwartz co-founded the THINK team, one of the finalists for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center. Nearby, his design for the new Staten Island Ferry Terminal is currently under construction. "There will be moments when it is full and active, and times when it will be empty," said Schwartz.