9/11 Fifteen Years After

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The Norwegian architectural company, Snøhetta, was selected to design a memorial building at the World Trade Center site after September 11, 2001. On Sunday, 15 years after the tragic events, we may hopefully experience that the architects have sifted the powerful currents of memory, myth and meaning into a sense of events.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the late New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp remarked that the several storeys of twisted metal facade then still standing after the cataclysm recalled Frank Gehry and Issey Miyake’s work.

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However, Retaining the Twin Towers’ ruins was likened to the ‘aestheticisation of murder’, and in 2004, Snøhetta was commissioned to design the only building on the memorial plaza. In the years since, the program has changed several times, however it has remained a cultural facility dedicated to visitor comfort and orientation.

National 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion by Snöhetta
National 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion by Snöhetta

On May 15, 2014, President Obama was present for the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion at the World Trade Center site. The Pavilion and Museum opened to the public for the first time on May 21, 2014.

The design for the building embodies a careful reaction to the horizontal character of the memorial design while also providing the area with a lively organic form that allows the visitor to imagine the site and city in a broader sense.

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“Our desire is to allow visitors to find a place that is a naturally occurring threshold between the everyday life of the city and the uniquely spiritual quality of the Memorial. It is important that people physically engage with the building and feel that it helps lead them on to other areas of the site and other thoughts about their experiences there,” said architect Craig Dykers.

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The Pavilion’s jewel-like, striped façade was developed in collaboration with the client to allow the building to have a strong resonance for the visitor as well as providing visual and architectural connection to the surrounding urban environment. The flat plane of the Memorial Plaza is pierced by the glass Atrium of the Pavilion, which allows visitors to enter the below-grade Museum and bring with them sunlight from above.

9/11 Memorial Museum director Alice Greenwald said she wanted ‘an emotionally safe encounter with a difficult history’.

Monuments like this are always fraught with disagreements, yet it seems, fifteen years after New York City has a building befitting both the city and the event.

SNØHETTA has been involved in the shaping of several great buildings and architectural landscapes worldwide. Amongst their work are buildings such as the Norwegian Opera and Ballet in Oslo and the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

9/11 Fifteen Years After, written by Tor Kjolberg