i+D - July/August 2019 - 32

Commemoration & Inspiration - By Brian Libby

Memorial as a Journey
When considering great memorials of the past, it's easy
to think of them as objects: the sculptural and architectural
forms that rise above or sink into a landscape. At one edge
of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., two of America's
most notable works-the Lincoln Memorial and the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial-do these two things to dramatic
effect. Yet, for memorial designers, the journey through space
is equally important, as is the broader context of landscape
or neighborhood.

"It's about the totality of the experience," explains Portland, Oregon architect
Donald Stastny, who has managed design competitions for a succession
of prominent memorials, including the Flight 93 National Memorial in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the National World War I Memorial in Washington,
D.C., and the Oklahoma City Memorial. "To make it through a competition,
a certain part of it has to be iconic. It could be the footprints of the [National]
September 11 Memorial, or the empty chairs in Oklahoma City. But, it's
taking people on a journey: entering the space, moving them from a place
of arrival down to that memorial or sacred ground, and leaving, hopefully
changed in some way. There needs to be a sense of discovery."

According to the National
Park Service, the "Tower
of Voices" at the Flight 93
National Memorial is meant
to be a "living memorial
in sound to remember the
[40 victims] through
their ongoing voices."

For the Flight 93 National Memorial, that journey was especially true because
it's within the context of a newly created national park and because the
"discovery" engages multiple senses. A focal point here is the "Tower
of Voices," a 93-foot-high structure conceived by California-based architect
Paul Murdoch that houses 40 large hanging wind chimes: one for each
passenger and crew member who died in the crash. "I kept thinking, the
last memory people had was through the voices and the phone calls from
the passengers on the flight," Murdoch remembers. "That's what gave
us the idea for memorializing in sound." But, the tower is just one part of the
larger setting. "The park is 2,200 acres and the crash site is a long way from
the entrance and tower," Murdoch explains. "It's a two-and-a-half-mile drive
to the visitor center that overlooks the crash site beyond. We wanted the
vertical nature of the tower design to counter the openness of the field."

(Image: Chuck Wagner)

The architect reveals the "first thing people ask is 'Where is the crash site?'
We don't take them down to the crash site. The public can't walk into it.
Many consider it to be sacred ground. We get them right up to the edge of
the crash site. There is an overlook and the field that provides a sense
of scale and then you discover the crash site for the first time." The Flight 93
National Memorial also includes a planned visitors center at the entrance
to the site, and what's known as the "Wall of Names," with the names
of those lost inscribed in granite as one reaches the crash site.
Designing a successful monument devoted to a tragic event is indeed
a balancing act, one in which empathy and education must coexist. "A
memorial is an intense project," Murdoch says. "Distilling something down
to just what needs to be there and nothing else: This is important in any
design, but especially for a memorial." The architect notes that while the
nuances are different for every memorial, you always have to ask yourself,
"How much do we celebrate the lives lost versus the tragedy of death and
terrorism? In the case of the Flight 93 memorial, we had to ask ourselves:
How do we suspend the intensity of the emotion of the crash? Because
you can be potentially overwhelmed. We recognized that this should be an
emotional place, but even the families realized this wasn't just for them-
it was for the entire country and for future generations."

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