Four celebrated architectural firms – Richard Meir & Partners Architects, Eisenman Architects, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, and Steven Holl Architects – collaborated on the proposal.
From the submission’s introduction:
“In the tradition of Rockefeller Center and Union Square, we propose to build a great public space for New York City at the World Trade Center site. We call this Memorial Square. While the 19th and 20th century precedents for urban plazas are contained spaces, our 21st century Memorial Square is both contained and extended, symbolizing the connections of this place to the city and to the world.
Memorial Square is defined on the east and north sides with hybrid buildings that rise 1,111 feet, restoring the Manhattan skyline with geometric clarity in glowing glass. At ground level these buildings form a unique array of ceremonial gateways leading into the site. These thresholds of reflection open onto Memorial Square, a place that supports daily activities while allowing moments of contemplation and silence.
To the west, two glass-bottom reflecting pools demarcate the footprints of the former World Trade Center towers. Beneath them, the volumes of the footprints become sites for memorial rooms lit from above. The pools overlook two memorial groves of trees, planted to mark the final shadows cast by the towers moments before each fell. Nearby, new proposed cultural facilities include a Memorial Museum and Freedom Library, a Concert Hall and Opera House, and Performing Arts Theaters, which frame the edges of the site.
Memorial Square sets a precedent in its potential for multiple memorials sites, beginning with the ground plan. These sites will be the locations for an international memorial competition. Given the nearly 2,800 people who died here and the thousands more who were physically and emotionally scarred by the horror of September 11, we believe that it is not necessary to contain or divide the site, but to expand it by extending into the surrounding streets. This is achieved through a series of “fingers,” reminders that the magnitude of what happened here was felt far beyond the immediate site. At the same time, they facilitate connections between Memorial Square, the waterfront, the proposed NYC Transit Center, and greater Lower Manhattan. Laid on the existing grade, the stone-paved fingers are also visual and acoustic reference points.
The essence of the ground plan reappears in the composition of the buildings, which only occupy 27 percent of the site, leaving the remaining twelve acres to be developed as public space. The two buildings comprised of five vertical sections and interconnecting horizontal floors, represent a new typology in the tradition of innovative skyscraper design. In their quiet abstraction, the buildings suggest screens of presence and absence, encouraging reflection and imagination. The cantilevered ends extend outward, like the fingers of the ground plan, reaching toward the city and each other. Nearly touching at the northeast corner of the site, they resemble the interlaced fingers of protective hands.
An architecture of dignity is not only possible here, it is absolutely necessary. In the belief that from a monumentally tragic occurrence can come to life-affirming opportunity, Memorial Square is a place of living memory, a sacred precinct where loss is remembered and renewal is celebrated.”
A slide show of the team’s presentation to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation can be found here.