Monday, July 16, 2012

9/11 Memorial

On July 4th I had the opportunity to finally go check out the 9/11 Memorial designed by Peter Walker and Michael Arad. I had heard plenty about the fountains but did not know much about the plaza before going.

To gain access to the memorial you must first go online to reserve a time slot (and make a donation) weeks in advance - probably contributes to why I'd not yet visited. The time slot issue means that there are plenty of people that end up loitering outside the entrance waiting their turn. But unlike the dentist's office there are no cushy seats nor Good Housekeeping Magazines - just as well without the latter, people watching is far more entertaining - although a few simple park benches wouldn't have been a terrible idea.

Later in the circuitous entering process I found the benches, on the other side of the stanchions, to bad this is beyond the point where anyone is ever actually, spending time.

As I said, the entering process is quite circuitous. Also, pro-tip: they have airport level security, I was lucky that a security supervisor let me pass through with my pocket-knife.

Finally made it to the fountains. In a word: incredible.

There were no plants in the beds, just the starts of some ivy and tons of mulch. I was told after that last fall the beds were planter with Liriope, but they were immediately trampled by foot traffic. We shall see, but I wouldn't expect a result any different with ivy. These plant choices are nice choices given the design mood for this memorial, though they are not right for the crowds which will always be using the space. Taller and more robust flowering perennials. Also in my opinion the memorial space wouldn't hurt to have some color and hope as every other material is very muted: green, grey, black and bronze.

I was shocked by the modernist brutality of the plaza space (and I don't particularly hate modernism). Sharp and square monolithic benches in the baking sun. One might argue that when at maturity the trees will provide shade for the benches, though honestly I'm skeptical that they will. 

Could probably fry an egg, or your butt.

And what would a visit to a high profile public space be without some good old American over-policing. No ma'am, you cannot stand on this uncomfortable bench - which admittedly is good for nothing more than standing - to take a photograph.

While the fountains were truly an amazing spectacle (I particularly loved the 'bottomless pit' attribute) the landscaped plaza was anything but amazing. Although it should be said that when you call upon a corporate plaza landscape architect to design a space you should not be surprised to get anything less in the end. It will be interesting to see how the space evolves as the rest of the site is completed. Eventually the plaza's identity will become less about the temporal visitor and much more about fulfilling the everyday needs of those who live and work in Lower Manhattan. Whether this design is successful at each is yet to be determined.

No comments:

Post a Comment