Alumnus Design Chosen for Future World Trade Center Memorial

Following an eight-month international competition that drew more than 5,000 entries, a memorial designed by a Georgia Tech alumnus has been chosen as the future World Trade Center Memorial in New York City.

Michael Arad, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1999 with a master's degree in architecture, designed Reflecting Absence: A Memorial at the World Trade Center Site for the international World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, launched in April 2003.

His original design includes reflecting pools and waterfalls in the footprints where the former World Trade Center towers once stood. It is to be built in memory of all the victims of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and of the six people killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

"I am very honored and overwhelmed by the news that the jury has selected my design," Arad said. "I hope that I will be able to honor the memory of all those who perished, and create a place where we may all grieve and find meaning."

"I will do my best to rise to the enormity of the task at hand. It is with great humility that I regard the challenges that lie ahead -- and it is with great hope that I will find the strength and ability to meet them," he said.

In what became one of the largest design competitions in history, 5,201 submissions were received from 63 nations and 49 states, according to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). Arad's entry was chosen as the winning design by a 13-member memorial jury.

The competition's jury includes 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.

"I think he did a magnificent job of sorting through all the many different interests and requirements needed for this memorial at this site," said Doug Allen, associate dean of Georgia Tech's College of Architecture.

"His is a quiet scheme. It's a complex and difficult thing to pull off at this particular location, and for someone at his age to design this scheme and have it chosen is truly significant," Allen said.

Vartan Gregorian, chairman of the jury that selected Arad's design for the memorial, said, "In its powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the Twin Towers, Reflecting Absence has made the gaping voids left by the Towers' destruction the primary symbol of loss. While these voids still remain empty and inconsolable, the surrounding plaza's design has evolved to include teeming groves of trees, traditional affirmations of life and rebirth."

"The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its regeneration," Gregorian said. "Not only does this memorial creatively address its mandate to preserve the footprints, recognize individual victims and provide access to bedrock, but it also wonderfully reconnects this site to the fabric of its urban community."

Officials said that Arad's winning design has evolved significantly since the eight finalists were placed on exhibit at New York City's Winter Garden this past November, and more changes are expected before it is to be built. A new design will be unveiled in a public presentation to take place next week, officials said.

Arad's current Reflecting Absence design includes reflective pools set into the ground to cover the World Trade Center's 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.

Arad lives in the East Village in New York City with his wife, Melanie, who studied city and regional planning at Georgia Tech. They have a newborn son, Nathaniel. Professor Allen 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 Georgia Tech's master plan that tackled a transitional portion of the campus.

"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."

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