9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion

National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion at the World Trade Center New York / United States / 2014

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On May 15, 2014, President Obama will be 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.


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. The design for the building embodies a careful reaction to the horizontal character of the memorial plaza’s 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. According to Snøhetta’s Founding Partner, Craig Dykers, “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.” Snøhetta’s design approach has always been characterized by an exploration of context. The WTC Memorial site carries with it both the power of its history and a new hope for the future. It is a place that conveys the memories and dreams of people around the world who are affected by its presence without forgetting its intimate connection to the people of New York. Certain characteristics of the Museum Pavilion will seem reminiscent of the original towers, while at other times these notions are only alluded to. The alternating reflective treatment of the façade will mirror the changing seasons, revealing the Pavilion’s differing qualities throughout the year. Inclined, reflective and transparent surfaces encourage people to walk up close, touch and gaze into the building. Once inside, visitors look out through the Pavilion’s atrium to see others peer in, and begin a physical and mental transition in the journey from above to below ground. Within the atrium, stand two structural columns rescued from the original towers. Although removed from their former location and function, they mark the site with their own profound and aesthetic gesture. The Pavilion’s light and airy materials allow daylight into the Museum below grade, commemorating the Pavilion’s tenuous relationship with the ground, equal parts weightless and hopeful. Complementing the power and simplicity of the pools and the trees, Snøhetta has designed a visually-accessible, unimposing, building which is fully integrated into the Memorial site. With its low, horizontal form and its uplifting geometry the Pavilion acts as a bridge between two worlds - between the Memorial and the Museum, the above and below ground, the light and dark, between collective and individual experiences. It also bridges over separate structures: the Path station, Museum and subway station below. Between vertical and horizontal extremes, it is a stepping stone between skyscrapers and the plaza. 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. The name of the Memorial Plaza is “Reflecting Absence.” As visitors cross the Plaza and approach the perimeter of the pools their gaze drops to watch the water cascading into the main pools, then flowing further over the second rim into the inner void. It is a physical reflection of the monumental absence created by the tragic events of September 11. By contrast, Snøhetta’s Pavilion reflects presence: the present moment, the day, the time, the weather, the trees, the surrounding buildings, and especially all the visitors present at the Memorial. While they look down into the Memorial fountains to contemplate and pay respect to the past, they look straight ahead and up at the Pavilion to reflect on the present and the future, bravely and with hope. IT Il Memorial Museum sarà una struttura destinata ad attività culturali. Il progetto rappresenta una prudente reazione al carattere orizzontale del memoriale disegnato dalle due grandi vasche, che sorgeranno nelle immediate vicinanze. Il museo avrà il compito di offrire ai visitatori l’opportunità di ricordare quanto accaduto l’11 settembre 2001 e di riflettere sulle conseguenze della cancellazione del ricordo. Alcuni elementi evocheranno chiaramente le torri gemelle, altri ne saranno solo un’allusione. Il cuore della struttura si svilupperà attorno ad un grande atrio vetrato farà da ingresso al museo e che consentirà ai visitatori di guardare all’interno del museo. Qui troveranno spazio i due “tridenti” del World Trade Center. Si tratta delle colonne portanti di acciaio che fungevano da sostegno strutturale alle Torri Gemelle, rimaste in piedi anche dopo il crollo. Pochi giorni fa è stato portato a Ground Zero il primo dei due tridenti. Il secondo sarà posizionato nei prossimi giorni. La struttura dell’atrio sostiene il carico di una complessa rete di strutture collocate nel sottosuolo. Ne risulta una soluzione strutturale disegnata da elementi diagonali che conferisco all’edificio una insolita identità scultorea che compensa la verticalità delle vecchie colonne esposte nell’atrio. Il museo sarà rivestito in metallo (facciata e copertura), composto da un mosaico di più superfici riflettenti; reminiscenza della facciata delle torri del WTC. La riflessività cangiante della superficie darà maggiore visibilità anche alle vicine vasche del memoriale. English Architectural intentions The Museum Pavilion is the primary structure above ground at the Memorial site, serving to guide foot traffic and to provide a visual point of reference within a large area surrounded by several high towers. Its low, horizontal form can be seen easily from all directions and provides a sense of intimacy in an otherwise capacious urban space. Its materials and gestures are designed to create a transitional architectural link between the urban surroundings and the Memorial grounds, similar to the unifying architectural features of many other parks and squares in Manhattan. A significant aspect of the Pavilion’s identity is formed around a large glazed atrium situated over the Museum’s Memorial Hall and near the center of the Memorial Plaza. The atrium allows visitors to see into the Museum where two large steel columns from the original World Trade Center buildings are on display. These columns, often referred to as “tridents” because of their trunk‐like split shapes, form a harmonious visual link to the surrounding shrub oak trees of the Memorial Plaza. As authentic structural elements recovered from the former towers, the two tridents placed side by side will create an immediate visual reference to the distinctive “gothic arch” motif of the Twin Towers and, in their re‐erection at the site, will convey strength, fortitude, resilience, survival, and hope. At night, the atrium lighting will provide a distinctive glowing lantern for the Memorial Plaza, helping to create an inviting and safe environment for evening visitors. The unique structural design of the atrium accommodates its asymmetrical loading atop a complex network of structures below the ground. The web‐like form of the structural solution has varying diagonal orientations providing an uncommon sculptural identity that complements the sheer verticality of the trident columns of the former World Trade Center towers on display in the atrium. The exterior of the building is clad primarily in metal that is composed of a simple striated mosaic of varying reflective surfaces, the subtle design of which is reminiscent of the façade of the former World Trade Center towers. Photographs and narratives of the original towers describe a linear pattern sometimes broken by the shadows of passing clouds or the changing patterns of the sun throughout the day and the seasons. These images allow for the often harshly described Twin Towers to be seen in a more nuanced light. Through the changing reflections of the new Pavilion’s exterior, the design rekindles a suggestion of this endearing and ephemeral character of the former towers. As the sun filters through the surrounding grove of oaks, the changing reflectivity of the building also will contribute to the glittering character of the nearby Memorial pools. The overall effect is intended to provide a gem‐like form, suggesting a sense of brightness and optimism within the Memorial glade. The tilted metal surfaces of the Pavilion appear to move upward from the Memorial Plaza on the north side of the building, adjacent to September 11 Plaza at the northeast corner of the Memorial. This dynamic movement creates an exciting and unique relationship to the horizontal ground plane of the plaza design and occurs at the place where the glazed atrium is formed above the Museum’s Memorial Hall below the ground. At this location the glass of the atrium is printed with a soft silvery pattern, providing both fluidity and a graceful integration between the two different materials and places. As the metal façade reaches upward from the ground it wraps around the building, lifting the mass of the structure off the surface of the Plaza. As it rises, it passes above Greenwich Street and is punctuated by a glass marquis at the top of the southeast corner of the building. This feature is intended to help pedestrians on the street better orient themselves to the Memorial site day or night. Along the south side of the building, facing the southern Memorial pool, the metal façade lifts high off the ground and tilts dramatically toward the center of the site. The distinct geometry and dynamic form provides an asymmetrical backdrop for the Memorial pool and helps to define a more intimate setting in this part of the Memorial grounds. The metal panels that form the exterior façades also clad the roof of the building, creating a fifth façade atop the Pavilion; when seen from above, the Pavilion will appear integrated with the overall Memorial design. Both the exhibition and the Museum Pavilion follow a processional circulation sequence with the main entrance doors at the northeast corner of the building near to Greenwich Street. After their tour, visitors will exit the building to the southwest, in a different location than the entry. This will serve to draw visitors toward the center of the site so that, after completing the circuit of the exhibition spaces in the Museum, they may view the exterior surroundings easily. From the center of the Memorial Plaza, visitors will have a view of both Memorial pools located above the footprints of the former towers. In addition, visitors can easily access the newly formed Memorial glade at the southwest and September 11 Plaza at the northeast of the new Memorial. Finally, visitors can experience the impressive panorama of surrounding commercial buildings, including the new Freedom Tower, from this relatively unobstructed central location. In summary, the architectural design of the Museum Pavilion is simple in its overall gesture. Its complexity is revealed in its detail structure and the subtleties of the cladding. There are paradoxes and anomalies inherent in the site and in the design that must work together while coexisting within a single place. The success of the building should be judged both by its functional interpretations and by its ability to promote a sense of balance within an exceptional and diverse context. The building is at once dynamic and tranquil, delicate and rugged, clear and indirect. The architecture is meant to challenge us to accept those often‐indefinable dualities and conflicting traits that make all societies human and that also keep us all searching for an enviable, though not inevitable, future. Overview Visitors to the Museum will enter through a Pavilion that will house an auditorium for public programming, a multi-purpose area for contemplation and refreshment and a private suite reserved for victims’ family members. Two of the original steel tridents from the Twin Towers will be enclosed within the Pavilion’s grand glass atrium, standing as references to the past, while signaling hope for the future. From the Pavilion, visitors will descend a gently ramped “ribbon,” toward the core exhibitions at bedrock (Davis Brody Bond Aedas, Museum architects), the archeological heart of the World Trade Center site. This descent echoes the ramp that once was used by construction workers to help build the World Trade Center and was again used in the aftermath of the attacks for the recovery and clean-up of the site and by victims’ family members to access bedrock on anniversaries of 9/11. From the ramp, vistas will be created, providing a sense of the vastness of the site and the scale of the original Towers. Visitors will be able to stand between the locations of the original Twin Towers and experience their scale, which will be referenced by two metal-clad, ethereal volumes. The ramp that will bring visitors to the core Museum exhibitions has already been framed in steel and concrete. The final descent to the base of the site will take visitors alongside the Vesey Street Stair remnant – also known as the “Survivor Stairs,” which was used by hundreds to escape the destruction of the Towers on 9/11. Here the visitor arrives at bedrock level of the Museum which contains the foundations of the original World Trade Center. To the greatest extent possible the original column bases and concrete footings that supported the Twin Towers are exposed in the floor slab of the Museum, and they define a clear outline of the Towers. Also on this level are the permanent and temporary exhibit galleries which tell the story of the events of 9/11 through artifacts, narratives, oral histories and multi-media displays (Thinc Design with Local Projects, lead exhibition designers). A powerful experience within the Museum is the West Chamber – an enormous space created by large sheer walls and long span trusses. This area references both the absence of the buildings and the enormity of the site. A preserved portion of the original World Trade Center slurry wall, which withstood the collapse of the Towers and prevented the site from being flooded by the Hudson River, will be displayed in here. The West Chamber will also house the “Last Column” – which was returned to the site in late August 2009 for permanent installation in the Museum. The massive “Last Column” was covered in tributes from members of the construction trades, rescue personnel, and family members before the column was removed from the site, marking the end of the nine-month recovery efforts in May 2002. The final leg of the visitor’s experience is a gradual ascent by escalator from bedrock back to Memorial Hall. From this ascent there are controlled views out to the aluminum-clad tower volumes. Arrival in Memorial Hall is followed by an ascent up to the plaza, the Memorial fountains and the active life of the city.

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    On May 15, 2014, President Obama will be 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. 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. The design for...

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