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ARCHITECTURE & PHILOSOPHY _ Architectural Violence and Creative Resistance [Architecture Elective _ Semester 2, 2011] This is a place where participants in an ongoing seminar called Architecture+Philosophy can discuss concepts, arguments, practices and projects between the disciplines of architecture and philosophy. The seminar is linked to the architecture+philosophy public lecture series, which has been runnin since 2005 under the curation of Hélène Frichot and Esther Anatolitis

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IN MEMORY OF

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Our world as we knew it was shaken in the minds of both those who were participants and those who were observers to the violence and destruction that unveiled before our eyes on September 11, 2001. The death and destruction brought about by this ghastly act of violence left significant imprint in our memories and consequently tainted the masses with trauma, more so those who were direct victims of this event and its outcomes. This essay will be looking at the responses to the disaster in terms of the proposed redevelopment, specifically the memorial and museum proposal for the Ground Zero site. It will elaborate on this point of focus by critiquing the propriety of the responses in terms of the decisions to locate the project on the site as well as the implementation of the museum and memorial within it, the discourse between the significance of a build or unbuilt proposal in terms of its monumentality, and finally the intended audience that this memorial is directed towards in addressing the effects of the trauma as an outcome of the incident. It will then conclude by reflecting on the strengths and weakness of the memorial proposal in addressing the key factors highlighted above. 8:46am, American Airlines flight 11 crashes into the north face of World Trade Centre Tower 1. The attention of the whole world is shifted to New York’s skyline, from CNN to local news channels. Nations are brought to a standstill as people attempt to absorb the shock of what had just happened. Reports go out all over the world as news centres and radio stations attempt to ascertain as to the cause of the crash. 9:03am, United Airlines flight 175 crashes into the south face of World Trade Centre Tower 2. Massive evacuations continue from both towers as people inside rush to escape the burning buildings. Mentions of possible hijacking and terrorist attacks are made on major news channels not too long after. There is widespread panic as civilians are rushing out of the buildings and brave rescue teams of fire fighters, police and rescue workers rush in to save those who are injured or trapped. Maria Tumarkin (2005) describes the uncharacteristic draw of a site of disaster bringing rescue workers and even “good

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8.46am

N

WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER 1

WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER 2

POINTS AND TIME OF IMPACT

9.03am

http://www.flickr.com/photos/themachinestops/88181088/in/pool-29934416@N00/

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Samaritans” off the street as something akin to an ideal form of community –many who perished in their efforts. 9:59am, World Trade Centre Tower 1 collapses 10.28am, World Trade Centre Tower 2 collapses Close to 3000 people are killed in the aftermath. The city is stricken by grief; the whole world is traumatised by this single event. Caruth (1993) depicts the immensity of this destruction in terms of trauma, being understood as the most real, and also most destructive psychic experience – one which goes beyond the problem of destruction but also, fundamentally, an enigma of survival. As the dust clears from the site, rubble is being removed, businesses around Ground Zero return to normal function and those who were directly involved in the event slowly struggle back to regain their daily routines and composure. One question however still remains unanswered: what is to become of the site of Ground Zero and how is it to be rebuilt (or should it be in the first place)? What can we now make of the fate and the significance that has become, Ground Zero? Questions about the remains of loved ones, the material remnants of the incident, the sacredness of the site as well as the need of a memorial suddenly become that which the people of New York were seeking to be answered. In response, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) initiated a design competition for the memorial that was to be located on the site of the previous World Trade Centre Twin Towers in April 2003 (the site of the memorial itself was predetermined by the architect Daniel Libeskind in another project competition for the master plan of the entire Ground Zero site). This was an international competition that drew in thousands of submissions globally, each of them having the task of complying with the mission statement set by the LMDC and its intentions.

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http://www.renewnyc.com/images_WMS/freedom_tower/dbox_WTC_Southwest.jpg

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THE MEMORIAL MISSION STATEMENT Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001. Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss. Recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours. May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance. (World Trade Centre Site Memorial Competition Guidelines, p.18) This memorial therefore essentially had to be that which encompassed the lives of those who perished. In doing so, it became in itself a medium to educate future generations about what had happened there as well as to provide an evolving space for this event and its meaning. The competition was won by Michael Arad and Peter Walker in their submission, “Reflecting Absence�. Bringing forward their proposal and confronting it with the points mentioned beforehand, this essay will now attempt to critique this design and its intentions. Firstly, we will discuss the importance of site that plays a fundamental role in the outcome and effectiveness of this memorial. The moment the first plane hit the North tower of the World Trade Centre and the first life was lost, the site that embodied the towers became something of an immense significance. It was a significance that created a bond, first and foremost with those who were directly involved in the rescues and who were victims of the event, followed by those who’s loved ones were part of the aftermath and then reaching out and encompassing the millions around the world watching the disaster unfold. From that site was birthed, according to Tumarkin (2005), the symbolic and practical ownership of the site by millions. In the light of its immense significance and attachment to the masses, it was therefore vital that this site itself was maintained in terms of location and therefore became

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MEMORIAL APPROPRIATES SITE

http://www.renewnyc.com/images_WMS/memorial_final/aerial_lg.jpg

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appropriated with the location of the memorial in the new master plan proposed by Daniel Libeskind. To merely redevelop the site to serve an unrelated purpose or to build something that would divert focus away from the event would show insensitivity towards those impacted by September 11. Having the memorial within the site itself also acted as an essential aspect in the process of helping those who were directly involved with the event. In consequence to the destruction and death that came out of this event, many people were affected and many suffered trauma in trying to reconcile with what had just happened. Trauma, defined by Caruth (1993) is the outside being internalised without any meditation, which the case for many onlookers or rescuers of the event was considering the speed in which everything occurred. One might argue that trauma could essentially be the worst form of damage done as an outcome of the disaster. Not denying the severity of physical wounds and injuries that have occurred, but keeping in mind that those, along with infrastructural damages to the site will be repaired and those things are able to heal over time. Trauma on the other hand, breaks that comprehension of time and renders it no longer linear (Tumarkin 2005). In the light of this, the site therefore holds a crucial role in holding together the past and the present together. The master plan therefore recognises that these two moments in history are infinitely malleable (Tumarkin 2005) and should always and will always be held together by having the memorial and museum dedicated to the event on the site instead of proposing the new World Trade Centre to replace the previous buildings to be built and placing the memorial elsewhere. The scheme recognises the site as that which has the power to compel memories, crystallise identity and meaning, and exude power and enchantment (Tumarkin 2005). The memorial attempts to engage this very notion in the way that it is purposed to create a constant relation between the past and the present and it in itself being an act of defiance to time erasing the memory of the tragedy, as written in Vergil’s Aeneid and placed on one of the walls in the memorial itself, “no day shall erase you from the memory of time�

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http://www.911memorial.org/remains-repository-world-trade-center-site

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One of the more evident qualities that are being preserved by creating the memorial on the site is its cathartic qualities. Even from the onset of the aftermath of the event, people from all over the world flocked to the site. Upon reaching the site, many just stood and watched while others were overcome by strong emotions, not simply because of the sheer enormity of the destruction but also because that which they were faces with was of a different order, a cathartic location (Tumarkin 2005). The memorial proposition by Michael Arad stresses on this importance in retaining the site as a place to reflect and reconcile with the event in the way that it expresses the footings where the previous World Trade Centre towers stood, now represented by a pair of reflective pools that are embedded into the ground, ghosts of the majestic structures that once stood there. Thinking, grieving, remembering needs the right kinds of spaces to unfold and to come to their own. Traumascapes are often these kinds of spaces, spaces that allow thoughts and feelings to crystallise, to find their right pitch and their singular expression (Tumarkin 2005). In this case, Michael Arad’s “Reflecting Absence” becomes that which provides the space for a cathartic element to emerge in the lives of the visitors to the memorial. While on one hand, the site proves to be quintessential in connecting the past and the present, it also holds the ability to engage with the future. It can be said that the preservation of the site and more so establishing the memorial on the site becomes an acknowledgement that the meanings associated to the understanding or interpretations of an event are still unfolding onto and within society as well as in the hearts and minds of those around the world. This place, being ground zero, brings forth unsolicited interpretations, demands engagement and ensures the contagiousness of the effect produced by trauma (Tumarkin 2005). In light of this, the memorial assists in this journey that many have taken to begin understanding that which had occurred in the way it sets out with the intention of being a continually evolving context for these historic events (LMDC World Trade Centre Memorial and Cultural Program General Project Plan 2007). This gave significance not just to the memorial site but to the whole of the Ground Zero site as well. In its entirety, we can therefore see the memorial’s intention to

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/September_17_2001.jpg

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preserve the site of the Twin Towers previously and also to create in place a memorial ground for the event as a vital decision and one that proves an essential part in addressing the violence experienced by the people of New York by presenting itself as an evolving symbol of meaning and significance of the event. Ground Zero was the new focal point of the reconfigured city, the place where it ended and where it also began (Tumarkin 2005). Seeing that the sitting of the memorial seems to address the violence as well as engaging those bearing the effects of 9/11, the second point in this essay takes us a step further in detail in terms of evaluating the response of the memorial proposal. We now look into the connotations of the built (or unbuilt) nature of the design proposition for the memorial and the elements included in it. A question that has a direct personal impact to the victims and those involved would be the attitude towards the remains of the collapse. Within the memorial scheme by Michael Arad, there is a vestibule allocated for unidentified remains. Intentions of this being that it is still provided a chance to be united with a physical remain of a love one that was lost or destroyed in the incident – to be able to grasp that something which was a part of a loved one who perished. While intended to be an element of sentimental value, it seems to imply a state of unresolved to the event and hence, the site. Here, we draw a distinction between a cemetery and a memorial. A memorial, unlike a cemetery, (while both places have a sense of resolve to the fate of those who perished) is devoid of bodies buried in the ground. Rather, it becomes a point and place where the memories of those who have passed are kept alive and represents their lives lived. Bringing them both together and situating unidentified remains in the project creates a sense of tension to the intended solace that a memorial should provide. Tumarkin (2005) explains the absence of a body or remains as that which creates a void within those left behind, one that creates a deep crisis, a crisis to come to terms with the fact that their loved ones that can only be presumed dead and placing these presumptions onto the site is that which this essay brings into question. What this critique suggests is not that the remains should be ignored or neglected, but rather

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9 11 911

ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE

MEMORIAL SITE? MEMORIAL BECOMES INSENSITIVE POLITICAL STATEMENT / MONUMENT / SPECTACLE RATHER THAN REMEMBERING LIVES LOST

STRENGTH IN ABSENCE

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its prevalence off site might be a more sensitive approach to its visitors as well as those who, while anticipating to be reunified with their loved one’s remains, might not embody the intentions of doing so on the very site on which they perished. Possibly the key element to this memorial is the two footings that are delineated by the reflective pools in this scheme. The very place where the towers used to stand is now represented in the void created by the reflective pools in the memorial. As the very title of the memorial states, “Reflecting Absence” is the main intent of this proposal. Many have criticised the notion of this project in that it does not do much at street level in commemorating the event as compared to other dominant monumental memorials around the USA such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Pearl Harbour Memorial. However, as stated by Teresa Stoppani (2011) in her lecture quoting Sorkin, “Building nothing, is not doing nothing”. The outcome of this project therefore need not be a built up and bold statement of a project. It rejects the monumentality that is expressed in many memorials around America and makes a statement of the attitude that one should take in approaching this event. In turn, this project addresses the very sentiment of loss that is felt by the city and their people and to respect it in the way which it expresses the two reflective pools, both surrounded by a stone parapet with the names of those who perished in the tragedy. “There are people’s remains in this ground...memorials have nothing to do with it” (Tumarkin 2005). Therefore, the memorial does not necessarily have to stand as an overtly prominent figure in the cityscape of New York, but rather it has to answer the cause for which it is built for – it doesn’t result in reducing the lives and disaster to a mere built form. A notable strength in the memorial proposal is its intentionality in educating the future generations about that which occurred at Ground Zero. Ruins, according to Tumarkin (2005), treated with respect and attention guide us to otherwise hidden realities and histories. The guidelines of the scheme set by the LMDC looks at internalising the element of education for the future generations and those abroad

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http://wtcmf.convio.net/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserPhotoDetail&PhotoID=198804&position=26&AlbumID=14633

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about the incident that occurred there. This is expressed with the museum element within the design that holds stories and images that capture the very essence of that which unfolded onto Ground Zero. Rubble and debris from the disaster will be exhibited in the museum which would assist in making these facts tangible through the interactions with its visitors as it derives vast emotional power from its direct involvement and survival of the attacks (Tumarkin 2005). In comparison to the notion mentioned above about remains within the memorial, the material remnant of the disaster, while confronting, is one step removed from human life. Their place and purpose in these events have been accomplished and therefore do no bring about unresolved, but rather act as concrete evidence of the destruction absorbed by the event. Stories told by survivors will also be a prominent exhibition, recognising the importance of the lives and not just the incident. This process of telling one’s story also assist in the process of recovery from the event and helps one discover the shape and depth of the trauma they are carrying – the act of witnessing and narrating (Tumarkin 2005). The third and possibly the most important critique that the memorial will be confronted with in this essay is the question of who this memorial is meant for. Is it for the people who are victims of this act of violence or the media and government? From the moment this event was broadcasted to the millions around the world, September 11 became a fantastic screen apparition that entered our reality (Zizek 2002). He also iterates on how Hollywood played a role in ‘war against terrorism’ in promoting the ideological message to the world. Initially, there was a sense that this event was being made out to become a media spectacle in the way that it eventually lead on to the war against terrorism (questionable in its own right) as well as the nationalist attitudes of the way information was broadcasted post September 11. However, with the dust settling on the event itself, it seems that there emerged a sense of reflection and remembering that overcame the site. The memorial in itself takes the focus (appropriately) away from the nation for that moment of time, refocusing it back onto the lives of those that were lost on September 11. Creating a landscaped area surrounding the reflective pools in

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MEMORIAL ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF LIVES, NOT THE BUILDINGS

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the project with the names surrounding them created a space for public grief which is essential to the healing process. As physical loss is attached to its place, private mourning and remembrance is often displaced by public grief and remembrance (Tumarkin 2005). It is in the coming together as a ‘community’ of mourners that bears a cathartic effect to the public who engage with the memorial. Ground zero holds a deep importance of common mourning to those grieving from the incident. Tumarkin (2005) warns that it is when these sites of loss are forgotten and all traces are erased, that the burden of remembering is placed on the families and victims – the rest are free to forget. Reflecting Absence is therefore an architectural defiance to the violence that would be solely directed towards the people carrying the burden of loss if the memorial does not paint the appropriate focus of the event. As expressed by Young cited by Tumarkin (2005), it is the legacies of the lives, not the deaths that energises and sustains those left behind. From this vantage point, the proposal by Michael Arad looks to be an appropriate reminder about what we (as onlookers to the violence carried out) are faced with – the lives, not the monument. People, not ruins, should be the focus of a deep, unflinching civil attention (Tumarkin 2005). It is on this very point that it is important and essential to stress that the gravity of the lives involved in the events of September 11 must never be diminished in the spectacle that is the Ground Zero site. It must and cannot become “just another sentimental landmark” (Tumarkin 2005). Dangers of this landmark becoming a spectacle over time is that solemn disposition towards the site would diminish. The memorial and the lives that it signifies will be reduced to a tourist attraction, a national statement or even worse, a form of government propaganda and publicity. For that reason alone, as a memorial, Reflecting Absence has the mandate to hold fast the reality and rightly portray the gravity of the horror that occurred, not watering it down. In that place, the lives will be held in the honour that they deserve (Zizek 2002).

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http://wtcmf.convio.net/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserPhotoDetail&PhotoID=198795&position=19&AlbumID=14633

http://wtcmf.convio.net/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserPhotoDetail&PhotoID=199246&position=27&AlbumID=14633

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In conclusion, the Ground Zero memorial stands up to respond to the violence exhibited by September 11, 2001. By its appropriation of the site in implementing the memorial and museum there, it becomes an appropriate response to the events that occurred there as well as in preserving the sacredness that it now represents in the lives of those who have lost loved ones in the event. Its response in terms of the built form of the memorial seems to be a sensitive one, in that it looks at being a memorial for the lives lost rather than another sentimental landmark. However, there were questions raised about the appropriation of the remains kept on site, although, that beckons a discussion in itself. Finally, the memorial was critiqued in the light of its intended audience and based on its, it provides the solace and stillness to mourn the lost lives on September 11. Memorials are sensitive architectural responses to violence as they are confronted not just with the incident or the site, but also the lives that have been lost. Michael Arad’s “Reflecting Absence� represents one that (while not perfect in response) stands to be a memorial that reflects and responds to the violence in the best possible manner.

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Bibliography: Tumarkin, M 2005, Traumascapes: The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy, Melbourne University Publishing, Carlton, Victoria. Zizek,S 2002, ‘Passions of the Real, Passions of Semblance’, in Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Verso, London, p5-32. Caruth, C 1993,’Violence and Time: Traumatic Survivals’, in Assemblage 20, Special edition dedicated to Violence and Space, MIT Press, p24-25. David, B 2003, Reflecting Absence Fact Sheet, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, viewed 8 June 2011, < http://www.renewnyc.com/content/pdfs/ReflectingAbsenceFactSheet120803.pdf >. Martin, C 2003, WTC General Project Plan, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, viewed 8 June 2011, < http://www.renewnyc.com/content/pdfs/WTC_GPP_FINAL_v_06-02-04.pdf >.

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In Memory of ______ ?  

Violence and Architecture Major Essay

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