Page 1

The Aesthetics of Remembrance:

Building Memory in Memorial Architecture


The Aesthetics of Remembrance: By Tony Wen Northeastern University ARCH 6330: Seminar in Modern Architecture Fall 2011

Building Memory in Memorial Architecture


Tony Wen

Northeastern University

The Aesthetics of Remembrance: Building Memory in Memorial Architecture

A B S T R A C T This article explores the aesthetics of remembrance. In this article the relationship between memory and memorial architecture is examined. The objective of this article is oriented towards a general comprehensive study of the meaning in memorial architecture and the importance of memory in that meaning. Occupying a position between the social and the aesthetic, this article seeks to explore memory and memorial architecture from a cultural and aesthetic point of view. Constantly, designers and architects are seeking to unscramble the questions concerning the language, form and the content of memorial design. For instance, how can history and loss be physically represented? How can large issues of cultural memory relate to a specific memorial? And how, when a memorial commemorates many deaths, can individuals be honored? To productively explore these questions, this article presents a comparative case study of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial designed by Maya Lin and the National September 11 Memorial designed by Michael Arad. By examining both case studies, this paper attempts to bring attention and to reveal a spectrum of emotive and aesthetic strategies of designing a memorial. Both case studies exemplify how to achieve a timeless status for the memorial design, but it is created within the context of a specific time and place that deeply influence that creation. This paper hopes to stimulate and inform, as well as laying a foundation upon which can built the ideas that will expand our knowledge of memorial architecture.

M

emory begins where history ends. History is not continuous. It is made up of starts and stops, of presences and absences. The presences are

the times when the active living is in motion, feeding on its own energy to create a narrative. Whereas, the absences are the times when the active living is dead, they are the voids in between the active living of history and the next. These voids are where memory is filled. Therefore, it is where history ends and memory begins. Memory has a fundamental role both in the transformation and in the preservation of cultural manifestation. Memory is a social instrument for identity and development. Without memory there is neither present nor future; importantly memories allow events to flow legibly. Memorialization as a representation of remembering past experiences bridge the relation between memory and architecture. Memorial architecture provides the stage in which it brings people together to unite individual memories into a collective memory. Although we put in literature thoughts that otherwise lost to time. Writing externalizes and makes concrete; writing allows us to add, subtract, and overlay; it allows us to shape and to polish. Writing however is essentially linear and restricted to the specifics shared by the writer or reader, and the speaker or listener. Although certain aspects of architecture and art works do share selected characteristics with writing, architecture and art works may choose not to engage purely with text as the primary vocation. However, memorial architecture and art works has the ability to transform words and thoughts; capture emotions and persevering memories into tangible and build able forms. With this context in mind, this article explores the philosophical and aesthetics assumptions of remembrance. The thesis of this article examines the relationship between memory and memorial architecture. Occupying a position between the social and the aesthetic, this article seeks to explore memory and memorial architecture from a cultural and aesthetic point of view. Memorial architecture has an ability to create a special relationship with space. It has an ability to communicate with users with an acceptable degree of comprehension; by capturing and triggering memories, it can bring people together to unite individual memories into a collective memory. This article seek explore the purpose of memorial architecture, specifically at what is a memorial purpose in the twenty-first century? Constantly, designers and architects are seeking to unscramble the questions concerning the language, form and the content of memorial design. For instance, how can history and loss be physically represented? Or how can large issues of cultural memory relate to a specific memorial? And how, when a memorial commemorates many deaths, can individuals be honored? To productively explore these questions, this article presents a comparative case study of two notable memorial architectures. The objective of this article is oriented towards a general comprehensive study of the meaning in memorial architecture and the importance of memory in that meaning. Memory and memorial architecture exist analogically in an essential, yet largely a provisional relationship, which is given

1


forgetting and memory in her installation artwork, writes, “Memory must work between the figure of the one who has died and the one disfigured by death” (Salcedo, 2002). According to Salcedo, memories form our identity as individuals, and it coheres individuals together to form the identity of social groups. “What is true for individual loss may also hold true for collective loss” (Treib, 2009). Memorialization, especially in war memorials, dedicates its typological and organizational strategies upon the conditions of place and event. For example, memorials erected at the location of the event (place-based) such as the National September 11 Memorial in New York City emphasize the significance of the place, the destruction of the World Trade Center, in relationship to remembering the victims during the terrorist attack on the 11th of September 2001. On the other hand, memorials that commemorate a catastrophic events but are not located at the specific place of the event is exemplified by Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.. The aspect that connects both memorial types either place-based or non place-based is the emotive and aesthetic strategies in designing a memorial that engages with individuals and collective memories of persons or events. Up until the late twentieth century, war memorials often employed iconic figures and/or imagery to commemorate those who have died during military service or victims’ loss during catastrophic event. The traditional role of memorial often uses symbols, such as statues and obelisks, but they allow viewer to have a single reading (Figuare 1). For instance, a realistic sculpture would only give one interpretation. However, in both case studies of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial, both participates in the ongoing exploration that challenges these iconic forms and supplants them with abstraction and space-making strategies.

meaning by both the designer and from the interaction of visitors as they engage a memorial with their individual memories and experience. In this study, to speak of shaping a memorial to memory is to discover its relationship to time, to history and to individual memories. A particularly innovative aspect of memorial architecture is the way it engenders awareness in how the user experience a space. By speaking a universal language, memorial architecture seek to serve as a device that record and transmit history. Memorial architecture can “prolong collective social memory of persons or events beyond the mental recollections of individuals who knew or witnessed them at first hand” (Forty, 2000). Thus, memorial architecture allows important moments to live on. This paper explores the topic of memory and memorial architecture, at both the personal and the collective level. First, the paper will present a case study that explores the way in which the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. designed by Maya Lin to be of a unique space that engages the visitors to recognize and honor those who served in one of America’s most divisive war. Second, a case study of the National September 11 Memorial, in New York City designed by architect Michael Arad and Peter Walker will present a study at exploring a memorial to remember both the victims and those involved in rescue during the attack and destruction of the World Trade Center. By examining both case studies, this article attempts to bring attention and to reveal a spectrum of emotive and aesthetic strategies of designing a memorial. Both case studies exemplify how to achieve a timeless status for the memorial design, but it is created within the context of a specific time and place that deeply influence that creation. This article hopes to stimulate and inform, as well as laying a foundation upon which can built the ideas that will expand our knowledge of memorial architecture.

Building Memory in Memorial Architecture Memories are an elemental component in our connection to the world, which is the thread that links the presence the active living with the past and future. Memories and memorial architecture are not posited as fixed entities, which always mean one thing or another, but are capable with a degree of flexibility in its ability to transform words and thoughts, capture emotions and preserve important moments to allow them to live on. Memorial architecture serves as a representation that relates to both the individual and of collective memories. Memorial architecture as a built edifice seeks to anchor our experience in space and time. In memorial architecture, we seek to keep our memories alive by creating permanent objects of remembrance. As a permanent object of record, memorial architecture serve as symbols of those who had gone before or the events in which they participated, so that they may remain alive in the memory of the living. The experience of death is one of sudden and complete loss. Death is more than simply the absence of life, it is the absence of the whole person, of all the characteristic that went to form the personality and the range of interactions that the deceased had with the living over the course of his or her life. Thus, we feel pain associated to loss because our recognition that the person who died had direct connection to the shaping of our own inner life of feelings. A quote from Doris Salcedo an artist and sculptor who she addresses the question of

Figuare 1. The traditional role of memorial often uses symbols, such as statues and obelisks, but they allow viewer to have a single reading.

2


the men and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.” (Abramson, 1996). However with a closer examination of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the design reveals a deeper symbolic meaning attributed by the minimalist and the simplicity of the design. Although the design is minimalist with strong horizontal lines, while incorporating the use of earth, space and light; the memorial is conceptually strong with embedded message of both life and death, and with the acceptance that would emotionally challenge those who visit the memorial. The memorial places the significance for those who fought in the war, for those who are related to the people who fought in the war, and for those who lived through it. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial had four major criteria for the design:

Memorializing: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most controversial architectural designs of the recent past and is one the most visited memorials in Washington, D.C. The memorial was designed in 1980 by Maya Lin and was completed in 1982. At the age of twenty-one, Maya Lin, an architecture student at Yale University discovered that her submitted design had been chosen. The selection of her winning design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial catapulted her into national public view and with intense controversy. Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a powerful and serene memorial that stands as a reminder of the lives lost in the controversial and tragic Vietnam War. The success of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is remarkable given the controversy that surrounded its design. In this case study, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will present as a study to examine at what the memorial means and how memory is engaged in the meaning of the memorial. As a result, this incites an architectural analysis at observing the aesthetics of remembrance. Importantly, this case study presents how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is essentially incomplete without human participation. In this case study, a formal analysis identifies that the memorial cannot be fully understood without addressing how the memorial interacts with human memories and experience. The design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial questions the purpose of a memorial? Especially at what is a memorial purpose in the twenty-first century? For Maya Lin, the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was to reflect a fundamental goal of being honest about death. As Maya Lin noted, “we must accept that loss in order to begin to overcome it. The pain of loss will always be there, it will always hurt, but we must acknowledge the death in order to move on” (Lin, 2000). Thus, to understand the purpose of designing a memorial is first to identify what would bring back the memory of a person? According to Lin, she conceived that the use of names is a way to bring back everything someone could remember about a person. Lin writes, “the strength in a name is something that has always made me wonder at the ‘abstraction’; the ability of a name to bring back every single memory you have of that person is far more realistic and specific and much more comprehensive than still photograph, which captures a specific moment in time or a single event or a generalized image that may or may not be moving for all who have connections to that time” (Lin, 2000). According to Lin, because we can associates the name of the deceased with his or her life interaction with us that the name can serve to evoke our internal feelings connected with the deceased. The significance of a name creates a sense of timelessness; it allows visitors of all generation to connect with the lost. In this essence, the dead become more than just figures of loss; they become colleagues, neighbors, and heroes.

1. 2. 3. 4.

that it be reflective and contemplative in character, that it harmonize with it surroundings, especially the neighboring national memorials, that it contain the names of all who died or remain missing, that it make no political statement about the war (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2011)

With these criteria, Maya Lin envisioned a basic structure harmonious with its environment and that it would be a place of truth and reflection. Examining the memorial from a visual standpoint, the design is a modest V-shape constructed flush against the landscape (Figuare 2). The memorial responds to the setting of the site by having one end of the memorial pointing directly to the Washington Monument, while the other pointing directly to the Lincoln Memorial (Figuare 3). With these two alignments the design minimized the disturbance on the site

Figuare 2. The traditional role of memorial often uses symbols, such as statues and obelisks, but they allow viewer to have a single reading. (Source: Lin, Maya. “Boundaries”. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000)

Abstract Minimalism of Memorial Design In formalist and minimalist terms, the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is understood by its simplistic and its abstraction of design. The memorial is identify with two simple black granite wall that emerges from and disappears into the ground, and engraved in chronological order with the names of

Figuare 3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial site analysis

3


Figuare 4. Reflection, the memory and identity of a single individual are understood when visitors engage with the wall up close. The micro/macro scale works at many points in the overall project including the etched names and the spatial form of the memorial. (Source: pictureshistory.blogspot.com)

Figuare 5. View from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial towards the Lincoln Memorial (Source: Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl. “A Space of Loss: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial”. Journal of Architectural Education 50, no. 3 (1997)

4

Figuare 6. View from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial towards the Washington Monument (Source: Lin, Maya. “Boundaries”. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000)


while developing an intimate relationship that gives context not only for private grief; it is also a site for shared public mourning. Lin stated here intend, “I wanted my design to work with the land, to make something with the site, not to fight it or dominate it” (Lin, 2000). According to Lin, she want the design of the memorial to develop a relationship with the landscape as being an additive rather than combative process. Lin characterized her design in the accompanying statement, “I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth. I imagined taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening it up an initial violence and pain that in time would heal. The grass would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in the earth with a polish, mirrored surface… The need for the names to be on the memorial would become the memorial; there was no need to embellish the design further. The people and their names would allow everyone to respond and remember” (Lin, 2000).

Symbolism & Aesthetics of Memorial Design Symbols are abstracted and appropriated for different representations and meaning. Abstractions and symbols provide meaning to the architectural elements that aesthetically and compositionally tie the memorial together. By examining the memorial beyond mere visual assessment, it reveals the deeper meanings of Maya Lin’s conception for the design of the memorial and critically at how the memorial interacts with human memories and experience. The first reveal, is the analysis of Maya Lin’s intend to cut a wedge in the land. This action represents a violent act of opening the earth, but this is an initial act that in time would heal. This concept is parallel to the violence of war and the healing process that follows after war. Symbolized by the names inscribed on the wall of those who served in the Vietnam War, this analogy identifies that in time the wound would heal, but the memory of loss and the tragic reality of war would remain. The second reveal is the reflectivity of the polished black granite wall. It might be argue that the Vietnam Veteran Memorial is primarily an empty space. However, this misses two essential aspects of the memorial: the presence of the names and the reflectivity of the polished black granite surface on which the names are inscribed. Maya Lin wanted the names of soldiers to be the heart of the design. Lin envisioned that the memorial would not be to glorify war, but would be a tribute to honor the soldiers for their service and sacrifice. Lin characterized her intend in the accompanying statement, “I saw the wall as pure surfaces, an interface between light and dark, where I cut the earth and polished its open edge. The wall dematerializes as a form and allows the names to become the object, a pure and reflective surface that would allow visitors the chance to see themselves with the names. I do no think I thought of the color black as a color, more as the ides of a dark mirror into a shadowed mirrored image of the space, space we cannot enter and from which the names separate us, an interface between the world of the living and the world of the dead.” (Lin, 2000). The reflectivity of the memorial plays a critical role. For instance, as one walks along the wall and descends into the memorial the inscribed names on the polished black granite surface becomes seemingly infinite in number. When a viewer stands and faces the wall to examine a name, he or she is also examining a reflection of him or herself which is reflected back on the polished surface. This effect is striking and powerful; with the high level of polish, the wall

5

produces very clear reflections. Through the reflective surface, the viewer would find themselves being part of the wall. The reflective surface super imposes our image upon the names. The reflective surface allows us to “see ourselves gazing out from within the wall. Thus, the space apart in front of the wall connects to a space apart that is seen through the surface of the wall. In optical terms, this is a virtual space” (Ochsner, 1997). This directness of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial gives a felt presence with recognition of our morality with the identification of the names inscribed on the wall, but it also acknowledging that we are separated from it. Furthermore, the experience of the polished black granite wall is enhanced as one touch the surface of the wall and to touch the names. For instance, touching the wall with our hands, the hand is reflected back from the reflective surface of the wall (Figuare 4). This directness gives a felt presence that a hand seems to be reaching forward from within the space of the wall. The spatiality of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is the “relationship of physical space and virtual space, mediated by a surface of names allows proximity to and identification with the dead, and an experience of the simultaneous reality of separation and connection, of living and dead”(Ochsner, 1997). The third reveal is the organization of the names in chronological order on the reflectivity of the polished black granite wall. The chronological choice for listing the names on the memorial plays a critical role. The names inscribed on the wall in the chronological order of their dates of casualty, shows the war as a series of individual human sacrifices. Analyzing this effect, the chronological choice for listing the names gives each name a special place in history. For instance, as one walks along the wall, one would observe that the passage along the wall is simultaneously a passage through time. The wall with the names inscribed begins at foot level, and rises progressively as one descends; as one walks past the names, one would realize those lost lives. Even those who have no direct personal relationship to anyone whose names is on the wall, the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is still engaging and informative. For instance, as we walk along the wall, the path descends, and we realize that the number of names grows “at some point along our descent into the space, it is as if we are ‘caught’ by the memorial, or perhaps we suddenly catch on to what the memorial is about” (Ochsner, 1997). For a visitor to visit the memorial, there seem to be a point at which the immensity of names becomes apparent. At that point, it seem, that the distant abstraction of so many dead has become very real. Faced with the enormity of losses that corresponds to the war’s time frame, one starts to realize the cost of war. This element of the design concept behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial helps the visitor to realize that immensity of the number of names is a direct relationship of the war. Numbers are just numbers, but looking at the wall one can observe that the names inscribed, serves as a constant reminder of the high price of war. In essence, a progression in time and the comprehension of the price of human lives that results from the Vietnam War are what’s memorialized. What the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is about? It’s about honesty. The design of the memorial was to reflect in being honest about death. From a statement made by Maya Lin, she state “Emotionally I felt memorials should be honest about the reality of war, about the loss of life in war, and about remembering those who served and especially those who died” (Lin, 2000). Importantly, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is able acknowledged the lives that are lost during the war without focusing on the war or on creating a political statement of victory or loss (Figuare 7). The memorial does not make any specific gestures; the memorial is about all death and all living. This apolitical approach about the design of the memorial is not to


Figuare 7. Maya Lin’s Memorial, challenges traditional roles of memorials, supplanting iconic forms with abstraction and space making strategies. The design embraces the multiplicity of readings in its spatial aesthetics over the single reading of a statue memorial. (Source: milpages.com)

Figuare 8. Maya Lin, Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Washington, D.C. 1980-1982 (Source: Lin, Maya. “Boundaries”. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000)

Figuare 9. Soldiers on a search and recovery mission during the Vietnam War. (Source: Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

6


glorify war or just to honor the sacrifices involved. Instead, it is the price of human life in war that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is able to communicate across (Figuare 9). Importantly, by merging the personal and the political in the name of social reconciliation and historical continuity; the memorial stress that the loss of life are what allows visitors of all generation to remember about wars. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial demonstrates that the purpose of a memorial is built upon the individual and the collective social memory of persons. An important component in the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the element of symbolization. In this case study, symbolism is an essential component for the design of the memorial as it relates to the life of emotion. This aesthetic strategy in design the memorial with symbols, is because we can make the association that constitutes symbolization that symbols can in turn, evoke emotions. The memorial provides a general spatial and symbolic context for the reading of the memorial, “It is an art that is assertive with space, not meaning. It sets a stage but leaves it empty for the spectator, who participates as an actor in the construction of meaning” (Treib, 2009). Consequently, symbolization is an essential component of memory and it provides the meaning in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In keeping with this idea, abstract minimalism and the interpretation of symbols serve as the basis, which gives the Vietnam Veterans Memorial meaning and reverence. Until Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the recalling and commemorating of individual names as the representative memory on a memorial had not reached a level of significant. While some see the memorial’s ambiguity as more subversive, Maya Lin’s design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial takes the names of individuals to honor each individual sacrifice as opposed to the collective sacrifice of all soldiers in a single event or place. “In place of the supposed university of classicism, of figural narration or allegory in art, Lin’s design taps into the universality of abstraction” (Treib, 2009). Lin’s design of the memorial is controlled and open-ended. In a statement Maya Lin states, “I am interested in presenting factual information, allowing viewers the chance to come to their conclusions. I like to think of creating places in which to think, without trying to dictate what to think” (Lin, 2000). Her ideology is about creating a private conversation with each person, no matter how public and no matter how many people are present. With this conception her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is able to connect with each person, making each one’s experience of the memorial very personal and individual.

Figuare 10. The Vietnsm Veteran Memorial is able create a private conversation with each person, no matter how public and no matter how many people are present (Source: Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

7


Figuare 11. Reflecting Absence, National September 11 Memorial (Source: Photo courtesy of Handel Architects LLP.)

Figuare 12. The Memorial site offers a reserved space for meditation and contemplation, centered around two reflecting pools that sit in the footprints of the original World Trade Center Towers. (Source: Photo courtesy of Lower Manhatten Development Corporation)

Figuare 13. A hijacked commercial plane approaching the World Trade Center shortly before crashing into the towers, September 11, 2001, New York City. (Source: Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

8


Memorializing: The National September 11 Memorial

of the National September 11 Memorial, the design reveals a deeper symbolic meaning attributed by the minimalist and the simplicity of the design. Although the design is minimalist with an open plaza containing two voids where water cascades into the recessed pools, the memorial is conceptually strong with embedded message of both life and death, and with the acceptance that would emotionally challenge those who visit the memorial. The memorial places the significance for those who loss their lives in catastrophic event that happen on 9/11, for the survivors who are related to the people who died, and for those who lived through it.

The National September 11 Memorial is designed by architect Michael Arad and his firm, Handel Architects and along with landscape architect Peter Walker. In this case study, the National September 11 Memorial will present a study to examine at what the memorial means and how memory is engaged in the meaning of the memorial. By forming an architectural analysis at observing the aesthetics of remembrance, this case study formulates a comparative study with the Vietnam Veteran Memorial designed by Maya Lin. The design of the National September 11 Memorial is a place-based memorial. Unlike the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, the National September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero emphasizes the significance of the place, the destruction of the World Trade Center, in relationship to remembering the victims during the terrorist attack on the 11th of September 2001 (Figuare 13). The design of the National September 11 Memorial is a memorial design that seeks to meld remembrance and regeneration to provide a venue for the cathartic expression of grief. The design of the memorial exists to reflect and remember the thousands of lives that were loss on September 11 from the destruction of World Trade Center to victims that were loss when the two planes that crashed into the two towers. With the realization that took hold soon after September 11 that many bodies would never be recovered, the “ground on which the towers had stood was declared by many to be hallowed or sacred” (Sturken, 2004). Taking into account that the memorial is to reflect and remember the lives that were loss, the concept design for the memorial was to preserve the tower footprints and with the inclusion of the names of each victim that were loss on that day. Because the destruction of the World Trade Center was massive, the concept for the design of the memorial is site-based. To design the memorial in the midst of one of the nation’s great urban centers, and not on a rural battlefield or the National Mall in Washington D.C, the design of the memorial had to meet higher standards. The design of National September 11 Memorial, was to be as much about renewal as remembrance and public space as much as private meditation.

Abstract Minimalism of Memorial Design A first look at the National September 11 Memorial, the design share similar emotive and aesthetic strategies when compared with the Vietnam Veteran Memorial of designing a memorial for remembrance. In formalist and minimalist terms, the design of the National September 11 Memorial is also a memorial of abstract minimalism combines with space-making strategies. The design of the memorial consists of an open plaza with field trees that are interrupted by two large voids where water cascades into recessed pools (Figuare 12). Ringing the perimeter of the pools are a bronze panels displaying the names of victims (Figuare 14). Bordering each of the large voids with the recessed pool are pair of ramps that allows visitors to walk down to a contemplative memorial space below the voids. (World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition ”Reflecting Absence: Statement“). However with a closer examination

Figuare 14. Renderings of National September 11 Memorial. Reflecting Absence: World Trade Center Site represent by the tower footprints (Source: Renderings courtesy of Squared Design Lab)

9


Symbolism & Aesthetics of Memorial Design The memorial is design as a space that resonates with the feeling of loss and absence. By examining the memorial beyond mere visual assessment, it reveals the deeper meanings of Michael Arad’s and Peter Walker’s conception for the design of the memorial and critically at how the memorial interacts with human memories and experience. The first reveal, is the analysis of the two voids in the design of the memorial. With its reference to the impressive scale of destruction, Arad and Walker’s design was to provide the visitor with an experience, partial, of the tragic gravity of the 9/11 event itself. Arad characterized his intend in the accompanying statement, “evoke a persistent absence, one that isn’t erased by the passage of time”(World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition ”Reflecting Absence: Statement“). According to Arad, the emphasis of the two voids in the design of the memorial serves to remember the event as it occurred and ensuring its place within an official national history. The two large voids with the recessed pools are the footprints of the destroyed twin towers. This concept of designing the memorial with the tower’s footprints in the World Trade Center site provides a symbolic meaning in its simplistic abstraction of reflecting the idea of absence. The idea that a destroyed structure leaves a footprint evokes the site specific concept of design a memorial that reflects the concrete materiality of ruins while also reflecting the absence of what was destroyed. A widow of one September 11 victim wrote, “the voids that demarcate the footprints of the towers in the memorial design replay the presence and absence of the twin towers”(Sturken, 2004). In essence, the idea of a building’s footprint evokes a sense that a structure is anchored in the ground. Considering this concept, a symbolic site provides a place where a death can be mourned that is, where we might recognize our loss, experience the resulting pain, and begin to heal. The second reveal is the analysis of the living qualities of the design of the memorial. Softened by deciduous trees that surround the two voids on the plaza along with the waterfall that cascades into recessed pools of the two voids are two elements that tie the memorial together. It might be argue that there is something distinctly non-abstract about the trees that are on plaza or the use of the element of water in the design of the memorial. However, these elements play a critical role in the conceptual design of the memorial. For example, the element of the trees on the plaza has an annual cycle of rebirth. According to a statement made by New York governor David A. Paterson, he said. “It symbolizes rebirth and growth, and as part of the larger World Trade Center Development Plan, is a powerful sign that our great City, State, and nation are moving forward on healing the wound” (Sturken, 2004). This connotation gives the plaza a living quality that extends and deepens the experience of the memorial. The second critical element is the use of water. The waterfalls that cascades into the recessed pools of the two voids are meant to be flowing constantly (Figuare 15). This connotation creates a space of reflection, and remembrance apart from the sights and sounds of the city. The waterfall endowed the memorial with luminosity, animation, and delight. This can be observed when the elements of nature interact with the continuous flowing waterfall of the memorial. For instance, the wind makes the waterfall arc outward in ever-changing patterns. The sun slices into the mist, creating small rainbows. In essence, the analysis of these two living qualities of the design of the memorial produces the symbol of hope. The third reveal is the listing of the names of the victims.

Figuare 15. Waterfall cascades into recessed pools of the two voids are is an element that tie the National September 11 Memorial together (Source: Photo courtesy of 911 memorial.org)

Unlike the chorological choice for listing the names at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, the listing of names of deceased at the National September 11 Memorial are arranged in no particular order around the pools. According to Michael Arad and his team, they considered that any arrangement that tries to impose meaning through physical adjacency would cause grief and anguish to people who might be excluded from the process, furthering the sense of loss that they are already suffering. Although the names are not listed in any particular order, the continuous ribbon of names inscribed on the bronze panels that encompass the perimeter of the pools suggest that the dead should be mourned collectively. Observing this concept, it is hard not to image that at both the personal level and the collective to see that groups of families are gathering together mourning and hugging each other. This act brings all loss together. It shows that the tragedy that had occurred is not just private it is also public. The National September 11 Memorial demonstrates that the purpose of a memorial is built upon the individual and the collective social memory of persons. The primary aesthetic of the memorial design is observed as abstract and minimalist, this is emphasized by the emptiness in the form of contemplative spaces and voids. Importantly, the memorial is able to raise the level of noble simplicity in its design, one that is enhanced by the presence of people and their interaction with the victim’s names and each other (Figuare 16).

10


Conclusion To conclude, having examined both case studies, we can draw in retrospect that the evolution in American memorial designs is largely a transformation from heroic figural sculptures to more conceptual installations such as the Vietnam Veteran Memorial or the National September 11 Memorial. Although these two memorials have been accused of being too conceptual or abstract, this article identifies that both case studies participates in the ongoing exploration that challenges the classic and traditional roles of memorial while supplanting them with abstraction and space-making strategies. The design strategy in both case studies embraces the multiplicity of readings in its spatial aesthetics over the single reading of a statue memorial. Both case studies exemplify how to achieve a timeless status for the memorial design, but it is created within the context of a specific time and place that deeply influence that creation. In both case studies the design of the memorial reinterprets symbols to convey meaning and to commemorate the persons that have loss their lives during war or from a catastrophic event. By examining both case studies, this article have brought attention and revealed a spectrum of emotive and aesthetic strategies of designing a memorial. This article identify that through the appropriation of symbols, meaning, and intention, a wide array of memories can be embedded simultaneously within a memorial: individual and collective, formal and informal, heroic and tragic. From this article, the critical questions that concern the design of memorials have been the language, form, and the content of memorials. The concerns to these questions are essentially the analysis of the emotive and aesthetic strategies; they relate to an intriguingly varied, yet at the same time a uniform sensibility and form. This thought on aesthetics help expose a prevalent assumption that memorials must either “serve a didactic or cathartic function; they must either instruct or initiate a healing process�(McKim, 2008). Having examined both case studies, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial both re-evaluate this aesthetic assumptions that memorial sites are locations for either initiating private healing process or re-establishing national unity. In both case studies, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial both attempts to perform both of these functions simultaneously. In keeping with this idea the Vietnam Veteran Memorial and the National September 11 Memorial help visitors establish a personal and emotional connection to the persons or events being honored. In the aesthetic of remembrance in memorial architecture, remembrance does not exist in isolation but rather within preexisting context of the personal and the collective social memory of persons or events. The aesthetic of remembrance in memorial architecture is a dialogue built upon the consciousness of how we are able to remember and learn from our past. In the building of memory in memorial architecture, memorial design can invite people not only to remember but also to think, speak, and behave anew. This paper hopes to stimulate and inform, as well as laying a foundation upon which can built the ideas that will expand our knowledge of memorial architecture.

11

Figuare 16. Ringing the perimeter of the two voids are bronze panels displaying the names of the victims at National September 11 Memorial (Source: Photos courtesy of 911 memorial.org)


REFFERENCES Abramson, Daniel. “Maya Lin and the 1960s: Monuments, Time Lines, and Minimalism”. Critical Inquiry 12, no. 4 (1996): 679-709. Forty, Adrian. “Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture”. New York, NY, Thames & Hudson, (2000). Huyssen, Andreas. “Present Past: Media, Politics, Amnesia”. Public Culture12, no. 1 (2000): 21-38. Lin, Maya. “Boundaries”. Simon & Schuster, New York, (2000). McKim, Joel. “Agamben at Ground Zero: A Memorial without Content”. Theory, Culture Society 25, no. 5 (2008): 83-103. A Space of Loss: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial”. Journal of Architectural Education 50, no. 3 (1997): 156-171. Sturken, Marita. “The Aesthetics of Absence: Rebuilding Ground Zero”. American Ethnologist 31, no. 3 (2004): 311-325 Salcedo, Doris. “Interview with Charles Merewether in 1999”. Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. Treib, Marc. “Spatial Recall: Memory in Architecture and Landscape”. New York, Routledge, 2009. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund 2011. “Design.” Accessed November 30. http://www.vvmf.org/Design Watts, Linda S. “ Zero”. Space and Culture 12, no. 4 (2009): 412-418. .” Accessed

World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition. “

12

The Aesthetics of Remembrance: Building Memory in Memorial Architecture  

This article explores the aesthetics of remembrance. In this article the relationship between memory and memorial architecture is examined....

The Aesthetics of Remembrance: Building Memory in Memorial Architecture  

This article explores the aesthetics of remembrance. In this article the relationship between memory and memorial architecture is examined....

Advertisement