Countdown to the 9/11 Memorial: Review roundup

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The Sept. 11 Memorial in New York, designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, will open for the first time on Sunday, for a ceremony for family members of 9/11 victims and select others. The public will have a chance to see it beginning Monday.

As the first segment of the complex and deeply fraught ground zero rebuilding effort to be finished, its arrival has engendered a predictable flood of coverage and critique, some of which I’ll attempt to round up here. (My own review appeared on Aug.12.)


Count the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott as among the most impressed by the memorial, which is anchored by a pair of sunken fountains marking the voids where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. He calls it ‘an extraordinary thing.’

‘The basic vision works, in part,’ he continues, ‘because it recalls ancient and deeply embedded connections among water, memory and death. Without reference to any single myth, the flowing waters suggest the River Styx, the boundary between life and death in Greek mythology. They also suggest portals, or whirlpools, through which one might pass to some unknown beyond, or the waters of death crossed by Gilgamesh in the old Sumerian epic.’

In the New Yorker, Paul Goldberger also has generally positive things to say about how the memorial has turned out, especially given the compromises and setbacks that marked both its progress and the larger reconstruction effort at the site. ‘You feel a sense of dignity and repose,’ he writes.

Philip Nobel, who like Goldberger has a book about the World Trade Center rebuilding saga to his name, is left to play the contrarian. Writing in Metropolis magazine, he calls the memorial ‘deeply compromised, existentially confused, and flawed by bad taste.’

‘If this is the best we can do,’ Nobel concludes, ‘we may not be ready to build a memorial at all.’


Architecture review: Feeling the void

Critic’s Notebook: Post 9/11, symbolism of skyscrapers unchanged

Critic’s Notebook: Apple’s new headquarters

-- Christopher Hawthorne