Finalists named for design of the memorial on ground zero

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The Independent US

The sacred ground of lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood offers little to visitors seeking to plumb the soul for sadness and tribute. The reason is simple: the area in the foot of Manhattan where so many perished two years ago resembles little more than a very large hole in the earth.

The sacred ground of lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood offers little to visitors seeking to plumb the soul for sadness and tribute. The reason is simple: the area in the foot of Manhattan where so many perished two years ago resembles little more than a very large hole in the earth.

But yesterday, the public got the first glimpse of a future far more fitting with the tragedy that occurred there, when eight designs for memorials for the site were unveiled in New York. All of them offer graceful and poignant spaces for reflection and remembrance.

The designs were chosen by a 13-member jury from a pool of 5,200 submitted to it by artists and architects from around the world. The process, which has been carried out in secrecy, is reaching a climax, with jurors expected to choose a single blueprint from the finalists before the end of the year.

The memorial, which may become the most visited in the world, will fit into a 4.5-acre patch of ground overlapping the footprints of the fallen towers. It will be surrounded by the complex of new edifices, including one soaring skyscraper, that has already been drawn up for the site by German architect Daniel Libeskind.

Several elements are held in common by the eight finalists. They all incorporate the engraved names of more than 2,700 people killed on 11 September 2001, when terrorists crashed two airliners into the 110-storey twin towers, which collapsed along with five surrounding buildings.

Also listed will be 224 people killed at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the other crashes of hijacked planes occurred.

They also all give private space to the families of those who perished. Additionally, the designs envision a special tomb for the countless remains of victims who have still not yet been identified. So far, the remains of about 60 per cent of those who perished have been identified.

Every design makes use of a length of slurry wall in the depths of Ground Zero that Mr Libeskind has deliberately left exposed. "We have sought designs that represent the heights of imagination while incorporating aesthetic grace and spiritual strength," the jury that chose the finalists said in a statement.

While the designs received their first public airing yesterday, they were first shown to families of victims in a private event on Tuesday. The response was mostly positive.

"I thought they captured the essence of what the memorial should be," said Christine Huhn-Graifman, who lost her husband. But some family members were concerned that the proposed memorials offer insufficient access to the bedrock of the original site.

With its secretive approach, the Lower Manhattan Development Council, which is overseeing the rebuilding of the area, has been trying to keep inevitable controversy over the proposed memorial to a minimum. Among those on the jury is Maya Lin, whose design for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, a sunken black wall of engraved names, drew disdain when it was first unveiled. Her wall has since been widely admired for its sleek and respectful simplicity.

Simplicity does not, however, seem to have informed the submissions shown yesterday. One, named "Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud", envisages an open-air structure with cathedral-like vaults and an overhead glass walkway - the cloud. Thousands of lights incorporated in the cloud would illuminate the engraved names. A ribbon, bearing the names of rescuers who died, would run through the names of the dead. Most of the finalists make special use of the square footprints of the towers. Another plan, called "Suspending Memory", would have two memorial gardens inside those footprints connected by a bridge. Each garden would be filled by small stone columns - one for each of the victims. Families would be invited to inscribe the stories of their loved ones on the respective columns.

Another of the designs asks for a ceiling of votive lights suspended over two square reflective pools. Each light would represent someone who died. Still another proposes a blue light projected upward from the place where the unidentified remains are entombed.

Most of the eight designs were conceived by American teams, while two are from abroad - from France and from Israel. John Whitehead, who heads the Development Council, said the jury had "identified the best work of highly creative individuals and teams from around the globe". He added that the final eight, "draw upon the elements of light, water, earth and life itself".

Carolyn Brown-Negron, whose brother, Patrick Brown, was among the 343 firefighters killed, emphasised the importance of giving emphasis to individual names and faces. "A list is too generic," she said. "There has to be a face with a name."

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