Alumnus Among Finalists for Design of World Trade Center Memorial

A proposed memorial designed by a Georgia Tech alumnus in memory of those killed on Sept. 11 is one of eight being exhibited in New York beginning this week.

Michael Arad, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1999 with a master's degree in architecture, has submitted Reflecting Absence: A Memorial at the World Trade Center Site as a design for the international World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, launched this past April.

In what has become the largest design competition in history, 5,201 submissions were received from 63 nations and 49 states, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). Each proposal was evaluated by a 13-member memorial jury, which is comprised of individuals representing various points of view.

Among its members are world-renowned artists and architects, a family member of a person killed on Sept. 11, a Lower Manhattan resident and business owner, representatives of New York's governor and New York City's mayor, as well as other prominent arts and cultural professionals.

"When the LMDC was founded two years ago, one of our key objectives was the creation of a beautiful and fitting memorial to those who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the 1993 bombing [of the World Trade Center]," said John C. Whitehead, Chairman of the LMDC.

"Since then, many organizations have joined the efforts to rebuild Lower Manhattan and honor the victims, but no single group has toiled harder or longer than this dedicated jury," Whitehead said. "Through their tireless efforts, they have identified the best work of highly creative individuals and teams from around the globe. Generations to come will see the final design as a time when America was attacked but not bowed and heroes were lost but not forgotten."

The eight finalist designs required certain elements, including delineation of the World Trade Center (WTC) tower footprints, recognition of every individual killed in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 and on Feb. 26, 1993, and a final resting place for unidentified remains.

Arad's Reflecting Absence design includes reflective pools set into the ground to cover the WTC footprints. Each pool is fed by a waterfall around its edges, and names are engraved in the stone around them. The pools also are surrounded by pine trees and stone paths.

In accordance with competition rules, finalists and jury members are not to speak publicly about their designs or the competition until a winner has been announced. But, Associate Dean Doug Allen in Georgia Tech's College of Architecture said he remembers Arad and his work at the Institute very well.

"He was really bright, and worked hard at his design skills," Allen said. "Obviously, he learned a lot."

For his master's thesis project at Georgia Tech, Arad examined a portion of the campus master plan - in particular, the southwestern edge of campus towards Marietta Street. His master's project, Insurgent Landscapes, was a design for an exhibition landscape that featured a series of mounds, hillocks and caves that would be open to Georgia Tech students and the immediate community.

"The formal language of his master's project came out of a study of the marginal and accidental spaces around freeways, plus his experimentation with digital software programs," College of Architecture Associate Dean Sabir Khan said. "Both were very new to Michael. The social programming came out of his readings on, and experiences with, contested landscapes."

Khan said that, of the nine master's projects submitted the same quarter as Arad's, his was the only one where the studio inquiry took on both formal and social issues, with each informing and pushing forward the other.

"Perhaps the form-making and the social programming was not to everyone's taste, but his project -- the propositions and the exploration -- had tremendous integrity," Khan said. "What is intriguing is the degree to which the issues he took on in his master's project -- of power, voice, and identity in a polycultural setting -- resonate with his competition submission."

Arad grew up in Israel, the United States and Mexico. He has been living in this country since finishing his military service in the Israeli Defense Force in 1991. He received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College before beginning his graduate studies at Georgia Tech.

Upon graduation here, Arad moved to New York City in 1999 and worked as an architect at Kohn Pedersen Fox for three years. He recently joined the Design Department of the New York City Housing Authority and has been working on the design of two NYC police stations.

Arad lives in the East Village in New York City with his wife, Melanie Arad Fitzpatrick, who studied City and Regional Planning here. They have a newborn son, Nathaniel.