The simplicity of the “Reflecting absence” memorial is astounding. Michael’s photo of his model with the mirrored skyline of lower Manhattan was the most amazing image of a model I’ve ever seen. I’ve certainly never had any model pictures that great. It was captivating and spoke great volumes of the design. Meaningful adjacency was the only possible way that the placement of the names could work. The families of the victims would have killed the project because they never would have been happy any other way. When you please one, you offend another. The meaningful adjacency recreated unity, and any other way would have created separation. The fact that you could be placed near a friend would actually make the name easier to find. The transplant and relocation of the trees for the site was a brilliant idea, and although the pear tree did not fit in the schema, it’s symbolism was more important than its aesthetic appearance. Another thing I had taken away from Michael Arad that I have been told MANY MANY times before…design in section. The illumination of the water from below was a powerful statement yet simultaneously provided feelings of serenity and tranquility.
As a CS undergrad and an HCI grad student, I’m not very familiar with architecture. I was a little leery of Michael Arad’s talk beforehand. This was quickly stifled when Arad began to talk, using common language to describe his motivations and goals. The absence of technical jargon made the lecture much more accessible. I also appreciated all of the images of drafts and prototype construction over the course of this eight year project.
I was struck by Douglas Allen’s comment that Arad’s design stood out because of its simplicity and directness. Looking at Arad’s design, it is clear that the problem preceded the design. Some of the other finalists seemed to awkwardly tack on technology without designing for the space itself.
Others designed a pretty structure that had no relationship to the previous buildings. These designs were aesthetically appealing, but there was no sense of loss, of remembrance, of solidarity that one might expect from a memorial on the site of the World Trade Center. This is what Arad’s design had that others lacked: 1) a design that would not allow viewers to forget what had occurred at this site, and 2) a plan that allowed for tourists to visit and also for locals to use in their daily lives, a site where people could come together as a representation of strength but also to show that terrorism will not deter progress.
Even though I do not design buildings or landscapes, I think I can learn from this situation. A core tenant of HCI is the process of creating a solution based on the needs of effected users instead of finding the shortest path from point a to point b. Just as an architect needs to consider who he intends to use the space, an experience designer needs to design software that caters to a specific audience and build in constraints and affordances accordingly.