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Winning WTC memorial design revealed

From Phil Hirschkorn

Michael Arad's
Michael Arad's "Reflecting Absence" is the winning design.

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A design that would turn the footprints of the fallen twin towers into reflective pools has been selected as the World Trade Center memorial. CNN's Aaron Brown reports (January 7)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A design that would turn the footprints of the fallen twin towers into reflective pools as the primary symbols of loss has been selected for the World Trade Center memorial.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced Tuesday its choice of "Reflecting Absence" by Israeli-born architect Michael Arad.

Arad said he would strive to "create a place where we may all grieve and find meaning" to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that toppled the Trade Center and claimed 2,752 lives at Ground Zero.

"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," Arad said in written statement.

A jury of 13 voted on the winning plan Monday at the conclusion of an all-day, final deliberating session at Gracie Mansion, the traditional home of New York City's mayor.

Speaking for the panel, Vartan Gregorian said Tuesday, "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."

The original Arad design dramatically uses water as a signature element, proposing two pools with cascading waterfalls 30 feet below street level, occupying the same acre-wide squares where the 110-story towers stood. Visitors could walk down to the pools.

The water would cascade on attack victims' names engraved in an apparent random manner on stone walls surrounding the pools to convey the "haphazard brutality of the deaths," Arad said in a personal statement that accompanied his being named a finalist six weeks ago.

But Arad has indicated victims could be grouped together as their families or uniformed rescue officers might wish.

The names would include six people killed in the 1993 terrorist truck bombing at the Trade Center and 224 people killed in the September 11 hijacking crashes at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in accordance with the memorial guidelines.

Unidentified human remains recovered from the WTC site would be interred at the bottom of the north tower footprint at the site's deepest point, 70 feet underground.

"This design proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the death and destruction at the World Trade Center," Arad said in the statement.

At street level, with the help of landscape architect Peter Walker, Arad proposes a cobblestone plaza with moss and grass and eastern white pine trees "that would bring back that verticality to the site that the towers once had there and bring life to the plaza," Arad said in his video presentation, released in November by the LMDC.

Gregorian said the jury found Arad's "simple articulation of the footprints" effectively "made the gaping voids left by the towers' destruction the primary symbol of loss" and that the trees were "traditional affirmations of life and rebirth."

Israeli-born architect Michael Arad said he would strive to
Israeli-born architect Michael Arad designed "Reflecting Absence."

"The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its regeneration," said Gregorian, president of the philanthropic Carnegie Corp.

Arad also proposes, in an alternation from the master site plan created by architect Daniel Libeskind, relocating the commemorative museum to the western edge of the site to block an eight-lane road.

"It encloses the site and shelters it from the highway," Arad said in the video.

Like several other finalists, Arad lives in New York City. He has been living in the United States since completing military service in the Israeli army in 1991.

Married with one son, Arad is a graduate of Dartmouth and Georgia Tech's architecture school.

Arad, 34, currently works for New York City's housing authority and has most recently worked on the design of two NYPD station houses.

His father, Moshe Arad, is a former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

The jury was comprised of professionals in the arts, architecture and academia, along with one Lower Manhattan resident and one September 11 victim's family member.

According to competition rules, the entries were kept anonymous during deliberations of the jury, which did not know the identity of the finalists until after they were chosen.

Each of the eight finalists was granted a six-figure budget to enhance their concepts with models, renderings, engineering studies and animations.

The jurors -- including Vietnam Memorial designer Maya Lin -- volunteered hundreds of hours since they first began screening the 5,201 proposals sent in from all 50 states and 62 countries last summer.

"We've asked the jury so much, and they've given so much more," LMDC President Kevin Rampe said of their efforts. "We're very excited about the jury's selection."

Rampe said the memorial would be built with private funds raised with an eye on groundbreaking by the end of the year.

Gregorian said the winning design has changed since it was first unveiled with seven other finalists in November and "will evolve still over time."

"Over the next several days, the design will be updated to reflect several changes, and new presentation materials will be created," Gregorian said.

The revised design will be unveiled in a public presentation next week.

The two other finalists that received the most attention by the jury were:

• "Passages of Light: The Memorial Cloud," would construct a translucent glass walking surface at street level with circular lights below, shining upward and illuminating the engraved names of victims grouped according to their location during the attacks.

• "Garden of Lights," would offer a three-level memorial turning the plaza into a prairie and orchard enclosed inside a wall open daily only from 8:46 to 10:29 a.m., representing the times of the first plane crash and the falling of the second tower.

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