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.