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The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was an open, international memorial contest, initiated by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), as per the specifications of architect Daniel Libeskind, to design a World Trade Center Site Memorial (later renamed the National September 11 Memorial) on a portion of the World Trade Center site. The Competition began April 28, 2003 and the winner—Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence—was revealed January 14, 2004 in a press conference at Federal Hall in New York City. The contest garnered 5,201 entries from 63 nations and 49 US states out of 13,683 registrants from all 50 US states and 94 nations, making it the largest design competition in history.



A skyline view


On March 5, 2002, Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) jointly announced plans for an interim memorial to the victims September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 World Trade Center attacks.


On January 2, 2003, LMDC and Port Authority announced that a series of public meetings would take place to discuss a future World Trade Center Site Memorial.

The Selection Jury for the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition were announced on April 10. The Competition began on April 28, when the Guidelines were released, Registration was opened. The LMDC accepted questions from competitors between April 28 and May 18, which were answered on its website on May 23 and removed at the end of the competition. Potential entrants were given until May 29 to register for the stated purpose of gauging the volume of entires. On May 15, the LMDC announced that it had received registrants from all 50 U.S. states and 70 other nations; on May 30, the LMDC announced that 13,683 competitors had registered from 94 nations.

Submissions were accepted from registered entrants between June 9 and June 30. On July 17, the LMDC accounced that 5,201 submissions had been received, representing competitors from 49 U.S. states and 63 nations. The LMDC displayed the 8 finalists in the Winter Garden on November 19.


On January 6, 2004 the Selection Jury named Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence as the winning design, which was displayed publicly January 14.

On February 19, all 5,201 entries on its website were made available on the LMDC's website. On April 8, the LMDC announced the creation of an Advisory Committee to ensure that the Competition Guidelines are incorporated into the final design, which had undergone revision since January 14. On April 13, the LMDC announced that assosiate architect Davis Brody Bond would assist Arad and Walker with their final design.


There were five required "program elements":

  • Recognize each individual who was a victim of the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 attacks
  • Provide an area for quiet visitation and contemplation
  • Provide an area for the families and loved ones of victims
  • Provide a separate accessible space to serve as the final resting-place for the unidentified remains from the World Trade Center Site
  • Make visible the footprints of the original World Trade Center Towers

In addition, entrants were expected to conform to the following "guiding principles":

  • Embody the goals and spirit of the mission statement
  • Convey the magnitude of personal and physical loss at this location
  • Acknowledge all those who aided in rescue, recovery, and healing
  • Respect and enhance the sacred quality of the overall site and the space designed for the memorial
  • Encourage reflection and contemplation
  • Evoke the historical significance of the worldwide impact of September 11, 2001
  • Create an original and powerful statement of enduring and universal symbolism
  • Inspire and engage people to learn more about the events and impact of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993
  • Evolve over time

Entries were examined by "LMDC staff" prior to jury review to determine whether they met the competition requirements. Although the Jury was allowed to review the list of ineligible submissions, the LMDC itself was to make the final determination.

Selection jury

The jury was selected by the LMDC in consultation with the mayor and governor. It consisted mostly of architects and artists but also individuals with other affiliations:

Honorary Member:


The jury selected 8 finalists:

Reflecting absence

Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence consists of a field of trees interrupted by two large voids containing recessed pools, marking the footprints of the Twin Towers. The deciduous trees are arranged in rows, forming informal clusters, clearings and groves. The park is at street level, sitting above the Memorial Museum. The World Trade Center site is a bathtub as the area was excavated to construct the original World Trade Center and the earth used to build Battery Park City, a neighboring residential community.

The names of the victims of the attacks will be inscribed on parapets surrounding the waterfalls.

A portion of the Slurry Wall (approximately half of what Libeskind originally wanted to preserve), the wall designed to hold back the Hudson River will be maintained in the Museum.


Some have argued that competition allowed very little room for creativity and that the 8 finalists chosen exhibited very little deviation from the design elements dictated in the guidelines. Many who disputed the selection of Daniel Libeskind, Governor Pataki's chosen architect, felt that the limited competition was designed to grant legitimacy to the overall site memorial plan although only 4.7 of the 16 acres (65,000 m2) to be reconstructed were opened to the competition.

Some have also claimed that the stringent guidelines, shortened time period for the competition, and/or the influence of political and economic elites have marginalized local discourses and imposes a specific interpretation of the events of September 11, 2001 onto the memorial site. Those under the age of 18 were excluded from entering the competition on the grounds that they could not enter into agreements with the LMDC.

See also


  • Greenspan, Elizabeth. (2003). Spontaneous Memorials, Museums, and Public History: Memorialization of September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon. Public Historian, 25(2), 129-132.
  • Low, Setha M. (2004). The Memorialization of September 11: Dominant and local discourses on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. American Ethnologist, 31, 326-339.
  • Mitchell, K. (2003). Monuments, memorials, and the politics of memory. Urban Geography, 24(5), 442-459.
  • Rybczynski, Witold. (2004). Less is Less: Was minimalism the proper design response to commemorate September 11?. Landscape Architecture, 94(3), 20-23.
  • Sturken, Marita. (2004). The aesthetics of absence: Rebuilding Ground Zero. American Ethnologist, 31, 311-325.

External links


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