The New York Times

Jury Favors Two Finalists for Memorial at Attack Site


Published: December 31, 2003


The jury that is to choose a design for the memorial at the World Trade Center site has narrowed its choices to two favorites, Garden of Lights and Passages of Light: the Memorial Cloud, people involved in the process said yesterday.

Another design, Reflecting Absence, is also expected to be under consideration when the jurors reconvene early next week to judge the substantive changes that have been made, both at their request and by the artists themselves.

Given that a field of eight has been narrowed to two strong contenders, a final decision may be near. If feelings of partisanship among jurors are running especially high, however, it is also conceivable that two competing entries could lead to a deadlock.

As presented last month, Passages of Light, by Gisela Baurmann, Sawad Brooks and Jonas Coersmeier, calls for a translucent canopy on the south end of the memorial site, made of 10,000 conduits that would create undulating cloudlike vaults. Under the cloud, 2,982 circles of light would represent the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and those who died in the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the trade center. The plan would preserve exposed column remnants from the twin towers.

Garden of Lights, by Pierre David, Sean Corriel and Jessica Kmetovic, calls for an apple orchard and prairie across much of the site. Large chambers below the garden would have 2,982 altars, as the artists call them, illuminated in part through tubes emerging at the garden level. Surrounded by a glass wall, the garden would be open from 8:46 a.m., corresponding to the moment when the first plane hit the north tower, to 10:29 a.m., when the north tower collapsed.

Considered something of a dark horse in the competition, Reflecting Absence, by Michael Arad, would turn the outlines of the twin towers into voids, two pools about 30 feet below the level of an open plaza with pine trees. It is one of the more unusual entries since it ignored the master site plan by Studio Daniel Libeskind by proposing a slablike cultural building along West Street, to shelter the memorial from the highway.

It is not yet known how fundamentally any of these plans have changed.

Those involved in the deliberations describe politicking and debates among jurors, who are conscious that prominent figures like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani have called for a timeout but are also resolved not to be influenced by political pressures.

Critics of the competition contend that it is too early for even the most gifted artist to meaningfully memorialize an event that is still largely unfathomable. Yet the memorial has been presented as the centerpiece of the trade center reconstruction, without which it would be politically treacherous to undertake commercial and retail development on the site.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is running the competition, would not discuss the status of deliberations yesterday. The jury, headed by Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is under instructions from the corporation not to speak with the press.

In his only public remarks on the subject, Dr. Gregorian said on Nov. 19 that the eight designs unveiled that day, out of 5,201 entries, were "still in development" and that "even the final version of the winning design will require additional refinements."

All eight entries received more negative votes than positive ones in a survey by the Municipal Art Society, NY1 News, Gotham Gazette and The Daily News. But Passages of Light was one of two that almost broke even, with 546 participants saying the design did not appeal to them and 530 saying it did. The tally for Garden of Lights was 642 to 371 and for Reflecting Absence, 633 to 382.

Sixty-nine percent of the respondents to a poll conducted by the Center for Downtown New York at Pace University said some of the designs constituted fitting memorials, while 17 percent said all the designs were fitting.

There is no way to say how much influence polls, public comments and news coverage have had. Among the 13 jurors are Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris; Maya Lin, the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; and Lowery Stokes Sims, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem.


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