landscaping at the 9/11 memorial

drtygrlSeptember 10, 2011

I haven't been to ground zero for 8 years now. The last time I was there, they were finished holding funerals for the victims, but they were holding a service for a police dog killed responding with its policeman. All the other policemen and their dogs were lined up. Each dog went up to the photo of the deceased dog with its trainer and knelt down. One dog started howling and the next thing all of the dogs - hundreds- were howling and it was echoing off the buildings and floating across the water. Both of my children burst into tears. It was very surreal.

We all have these experiences and moments that galvanize our feelings about 9/11. Being a New yorker originally and working in the financial district for several years, just prior to the 1993 bombing (I luckily moved 2 weeks before that happened) is a very important and sensitive issue for me.

I was wondering if you had looked at or visited the memorial and what you thought of it. I am limited to looking at it through pictures at this point in time, but i think it captures a lot of my feelings about what this site should be. Ever since I heard the idea, I have loved the waterfall in the footprints of the towers. The shape and proximity of the towers is captured and memorialized but the use of water and the cleansing metaphor is soothing. The balance of safety, memorials, practical concerns and costs is truly an unfathomable scale of project.

Here is a link that might be useful: interview with the la

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bahia(SF Bay Area)

Thanks for posting the linked LA Times article. I was going to restrain my comments to my experience working first hand as a consultant to ROMA Design Group on the MLK Memorial, and how long the whole design process can be working on a memorial design, but that is rather obvious to anyone who observes the process. Instead, and i hope i dont affend people here; my sense of the whole 9/11 events is that they had a far different effect on people here on the West Coast than for folks in New York and Washington, DC. It does seem like waterfalls sheeting over victims names is a very common theme for memorials, but in this case it is a very literal reference to the showering debris from the imagery of the two towers collapsing. I wouldn't presume to know how it resonates or not for the people of New York. I do resent the not well thought out immediate response for military reaction, quickly escalating into a second war in Iraq, and neither war started with any real sense of how to end them successfully to the benefit of Iraqi and Afghanistani people as well as Americans. Two off-budget wars seem to have led us to the USSR 's fate, where we have bankrupted our economy over wars without any good resolution. Not to mention that many people around the world saw our interventions as being more about protecting access to oil than freedom from terrorism. Of course this memorial doesn't begin to address those larger world issues, but hopefully people will at some point see the larger connections and question the way we continue to act on the world stage.

Looking at it just on the local level, the actions of all the first responders were a wonder of nobile sacrifice in the face of extreme duty, and the heroics of individuals in response to the disaster is reassuring that our culture hasn't completely broken down. I'd personally like to see more shared sacrifice on the part of average citizens via a reinstituted public service/draft and taxes to pay for current wars and/or war bonds to make it more difficult to start unfunded wars that benefit big corporations and politicians linked to the military industrial complex to the detriment of future generations and the country's economic viability. There is no chance that people will see the benefit of making hidden wars impacts more painfully felt in the present in order to restrain their being started without thinking it all the way through, unfortunately.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 3:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It takes bombs and aggression to break it and a garden to fix it. Perhaps more time spent in a garden to begin with would save a lot of heart ache.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 4:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, david - that is a really different perspective - the west coast one, perhaps. I have a hard time linking the personal losses, the too close feeling of loss -to the wars - because the whole of 9/11 feels like an event in itself. The war/wars were a separate response to those events in my thinking. Whether you agree with the military action or not, 9/11 is an event that occurred in isolation from the political response of war. I actually have a really hard time thinking about the two in one thought - to be completely honest.

My concern about the memorial - which I have not seen in person - is that perhaps it may be too minimal. Is it too simple to reflect the complex feelings we, as north americans, have about this event? As illustrated in our discussion here - a canadian, an east coaster and a west coaster. We all have very different feelings about the events ten years ago.

Also, I really never thought about a more literal interpretation of the waterfall. I find it a bit disturbing, now that it is described as the raining down of debris on NYC.

One of my NYC friends posted a video on FB today - it was walkers, trucks, motorcycles all passing by his office on the way TOWARDS the ground zero site. (where he, as a contractor, has been working on the rebuilding effort now for 8 years). In my mind it was a dramatic contrast to the people who we saw on news video and personal video running away from that site 10 years ago.

Ink - I hate to say it - but I think there has been a lot of bombs and aggression in the landscape forum lately - so maybe gardening isn't the perfect solution? IDK - i dont have the answer to world peace - but my teenage children do....

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 4:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My old friend wellspring who used to post here would help you out here dirtygirl but every lesson you need to learn, patience being the primary, can be learned in a garden. The question what is the most colourful plant in a garden brings us to the forum mantra "it all depends" and as another oldster Ironbelly would say ask five gardeners for an opinion and you get at least six different ones. The danger is being too attached to the opinion you have without realizing that you may be dealing with people with a similar attachment.

For us little people the attacks on the World Trade Centre came as a shock as it was not something we had anticipated or had any experience of and events like these are hard to reconcile. When a German bomb dropped in a field near where I lived as a kid we went to look at the hole it made and there was/is no way I could/can get my head around it in spite of any offered explanation.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 5:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My thought about the waterfalls has always been one of perpetual motion- an unstoppable momentum of energy and beauty.... kind of like the eternal flame at JFK's tomb reminding everyone of promise and hope lost.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 5:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I read the link to the interview with the LA. Then I went on to read the article, "Will the attacks live in infamy?"

As UC Irvine historian Emily Rosenberg explained it in her book "A Date Which Will Live," historical memory is not fixed. Lessons that seem crucial at one point can be ignored at another. Memory, even of the most unforgettable events, is unstable and can be transformed by new circumstances.

I left Metro DC late in June 2001. My connection, aside from sensing the enormity of the event and watching it unfold on TV, is two people I knew from work were on the plane flown into the Pentagon. Like Ink bewildered by a bomb crater, my mind shuts down trying to imagine a last instant of terror and astonishment.

What will our new circumstances be and when will they come?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 6:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I believe that all tragedy is intimate. My experience is unique to me, yours will only belong to you. I do like the accessible plainness
of the 9/11 design itself. By staying so simple and reflective, it allows for many people to project a myriad of emotions upon it.
Hopefully, for some at least, the garden grounds will help to comfort the grieving spirit.

But eventually, inevitably, time will pass and the fierce drama of that moment will be left behind. A low-flying plane will scarcely be noticed. An empty shoe found in the street will not be poignant, only trash. The changed skyline will become the norm. Life goes on...

Hopefully then, the remembering of 9/11 will only be part of a larger, changed landscape. Today's memorial will no longer be a place of mourning, but instead a focus of lessons learned. Just like other great monuments of past tragedies - exactly how it should be.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 6:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

drtygrl, I see the waterfalls as symbolic of cleansing. bahia's "showering debris" would never have occurred to me (then again, as per the user-name, many things don't occur to me). But these are gentle waterfalls, thin sheets of water: not powerful, disorderly Niagaras. Peaceful rather than chaotic.

The negative space inside (was that part of what you meant by "perhaps it will be too minimal"?) speaks of loss ... the absence of what was.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 9:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

For me, the full emotional depth of experiencing a monument such as The Trade Center Memorial Park cannot be told by seeing it in a photograph, it must be tangibly experienced on site in the enormity of the moment.

Peter Walker, the landscape architect who worked in collaboration and confrontation with the team(s), is in my opinion, a master of understanding the simplicity of expressive emotion in a public space.
Walker understands that the worst thing that any one can do is emote for someone else who has a working mind.

This is why literal monuments often fail. They subject the viewer to a literal image that puts selective words and or a directive meaning into the viewers mind instead of letting the viewer conjure up their own narrative.

Through the simplicity of his design, Walker lets the viewer emote for themselves by seeing what they want to see thus having their own visceral connection.

Some will see an archetypal representation in the waterfall as debris raining down upon itself while others will see it merely as a watery veil or an ephemeral passage of time.
Others will experience the recessed water feature in the ground as a tomb and the secondary vault as an abyss ( not necessarily a bottomless pit into hell but as an opening to infinity. )
That is the beauty of simplicity in design : individual personal responsiveness.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 9:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bahia(SF Bay Area)

I don't see the 9/11 event as being in any way isolated from threads that followed, I just don't. Having lived and worked in a country that provided so many of the recruits for the 9/11 violence, it was obvious to me back in 1999/2000 while working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that the potential for this sort of escalating violence and clash between religious/political cultures was not going to go away. I think it is simply naive to think that a "back to the garden" ethos can paper over the differences. Having long term contact with Muslims and Islamic culture from having made friends in both the middle east and Islamic southeast Asia, I don't fear the religion. I do fear what our government is allegedly doing in our name, and it seems obvious to me that our complete dependence on foreign sources of oil is driving both the wars and the reactionary violence. We have missed an opportunity to redirect our economy towards a non-petrleum base. Our money used to buy oil is directly funding terrorism and regressive politics throughout the middle east. It is amazing to me, that regardless of one's thoughts about Saddam Hussein, that we'd be convinced that Iraqi's would see us as saviors, or our actions viewed by surrounding countries as a model for their benefit. I'm not saying that we need to reject American military force in protection of our interests when necessary, but let's at least have an honest discussion about what those interests are. I think it is clearly more about preserving access to oil than spreading democracy and personal freedoms, and seen as such by most of the rest of the world. If 9/11 isn't placed within this larger context, we're in for decades of sustained fighting terrorism that may never end, and is that the politics we want to support?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 9:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Big business controls the government. Government controls the media. Media controls the common man.
And thus is born the ethnocentric culture of groupthink.
Makes it difficult to figure out who the real bad guys are, eh?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 12:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have been unwillingly brought into a great culture's internal clash between progressive thinking and intolerance for religious expression, women's rights, orientation, and sharing the Holy Land .

Ironically, while Europe was in the dark ages, the Middle East was a progressive culture much more inclusive than now. As their fortunes changed, there was this knee-jerk reaction, not unlike that shown by the religous right here in N. America, to return to a more strict interpretation of scripture. But what made that culture so great in the past was tolerance and openess, and hopefully that will be found as a path instead of intolerance.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree that it is a memorial that would need to be experienced to really understand the meaning, scale, and emotions at the site. I was hoping, perhaps, that some one had been there - and could give us there first hand impression.

I really love the title - reflecting absence - and the implication that it makes about projecting your own feelings of loss, as adrienne said. I think when the construction is finished in the area, the memorial will be further enhanced by the reflections of the buildings in the area.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 8:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry, I got cut off.

I just wanted to add, that gardens and bombs are not the only options to respond to the tragedy. I have linked an article written about a woman I knew in college, whose husband, who also went to college with us, was lost on 9/11. I think if more people responded like susan did, by making a choice rather than just reacting, the world could be a better place.

Here is a link that might be useful: beyond 9/11

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think Michelle (deviant-deziner) has explained the approach to memorials quite well.

Minimalism and simplicity, when well executed - isn't restrictive - it's evocative.

For a controversy over a monument, all you have to look to is Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. There was huge opposition to the design's supposedly irreverent simplicity. And now, it is almost like the grandfather (grandmother?) to a whole era of minimalistic monuments.

Another example to look to, in comparing the Ground Zero memorial, is the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, designed by Peter Eisenman. What he said about his design could also be applied to this discussion:

"It stands there, silent. The one who has to talk is you."

I will be visiting a friend in NYC soon - I'll try to visit the Ground Zero memorial, take pics and come back with my personal on-the-ground experience of it.

- Audric

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@ drtygrl - Your friend Susan sounds like an old soul. I wish more people would ascribe to her philosophy.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 12:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm bothered by the feeling that those who did this get to see us worship a hole in the ground. I think anything short of replacing the buildings, at least as big, leaves me feeling like those who did this destruction or support it are still getting off on it.

Nothing against the design or designers. I can't imagine the burden of having to take on such a responsibility.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Andrew, you've definitely pinpointed a lot of people's feelings towards the treatment of Ground Zero. However, acknowledging and maintaining the buildings' absence gives more strength to the notion that a society is more than just its physical structures. Yes, a country needs to respond and rebound from such a tragedy, but rebuilding can mean so much more than creating new towers.

I think that it would be a greater loss to erase the void that the original buildings left than the absence of a new, physical building.

- Audric

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 8:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I completely agree with the idea of it being much more. I thought that it would feel like much more (maybe it would if I were there), but now that something else is there I have a sick feeling because there are no buildings. Maybe the point is to get that emotion, I don't know.

Right now it feels like the other team won the trophy and they are displaying it in my living room. I really think any other design would leave me with the same feeling.

Reasoning it does not overcome the feeling for me.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 6:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I've only seen it in pictures and on television ...but I think it is beautiful. And the way the light moves through the's almost a living thing. I bet the sound is interesting as well.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:46AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
What can I put here for privacy
I bought this house 18 months ago and I'm not certain...
Carlton Clay
Show Me Your Small Private Backyard Landscaping
Looking for picture-based examples of up to a 1/4 acre...
Bob Sislow
Shrubs need to get pulled out U-G-L-Y
Hi Forum Members: I recently bought my house and the...
Concrete or Pavers
Hey guys, So I've started the process of having contractors...
Can a new wood fence be moved?
I recently purchased a house with a newly installed...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™