It is hard to believe that twenty years have passed since a sunny and beautiful day in early September was scarred by terrorist attacks, leading to death and mourning in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. September 11, 2001 is a marker – there is the world before that day, and the world after that day. All of us who were alive at the time remember exactly how our own September 11 unfolded, in much the same way as the generations before us remember the assassination of President Kennedy or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The attacks on September 11 were intended to strike deep – at important symbols of our nation. Our commemoration of what happened twenty years ago does not revisit the pain, but instead focuses on our collective resilience, and remind us that as a people, we are capable of overcoming our deepest challenges. That is an excellent message for all of us today, as we work to make a society for tomorrow that is better than yesterday. Forever Marked by the Day commemorates this important anniversary by examining the making and remaking of the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, through the lens of architecture. Beginning with the move toward a renewal of the Wall Street area, the bold plan for tilting the commercial axis from midtown to downtown featured two towering skyscrapers that were, when built, the tallest buildings in the world. Minoru Yamasaki, the American architect chosen to design the buildings, delivered twin structures that bridged between the elemental modernism of Mies van der Rohe and the glass-skinned towers of Cesar Pelli.
The size and restrained simplicity of the towers, combined with the high visibility of the site, made them instant cultural icons. They came to symbolize, around the world, the commercial vitality of New York and the United States. For the September 11 terrorists, the international prominence of the towers made them ideal targets. After the attacks, we were changed – collectively. As we recovered, both as a nation and a world, New Yorkers developed a plan to reiterate all that the Twin Towers had come to symbolize. The site would be redeveloped – with a goal to make it even better than it had been – as a commercial center, but also as a place of remembrance and reflection. Many significant contributions have been incorporated into the World Trade Center of today, now twenty years after that fateful day. Daniel Libeskind’s optimistic plan for the site created an urban village of immense scale that remembers the past and celebrates the future with Michael Arad’s monumentally sublime memorial on the site, Reflecting Absence, serving as the centerpiece. David Childs’ One World Trade Center allows the site to once again pierce the sky, and serve as a beacon of resilience visible for miles. And Santiago Calatrava’s transportation hub, the Oculus, reminds us all that we are constantly moving forward, and that when we allow our cities to evolve and to be infused with our human spirit, they can be jubilant. We hope you will find a moment of peace as you remember all that was lost on September 11.
The new World Trade Center is a space of remembering and healing, as well as a tribute to life and art. This place serves as a memorial designed to honor people and commemorate heroes and connects the past and the future to the present through architecture. The buildings and spaces designed by Daniel Libeskind, Michael Arad, David Childs, and Santiago Calatrava carry a message of peace and hope after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Forever Marked by the Day pays homage to those architects, artists, designers, and photographers who made creativity triumph over destruction.
MINORU YAMASAKI’S TWIN TOWERS 1962-2001
Minoru Yamasaki was born in Seattle in 1912 to Japanese parents. He earned an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Washington and a Master in Architecture from New York University. After working for a variety of architectural firms in New York, Yamasaki moved to Detroit in 1945 and eventually established Yamasaki and Associates in 1957.
Yamasaki’s work was repeatedly promoted by his friend Doug Haskell, who served as chief editor of Architectural Forum for fifteen years, which helped to elevate his practice. With a growing reputation, Yamasaki was one of seven finalists selected from a group of architectural firms invited to submit a proposal for the World Trade Center planned by the Port of New York Authority.
An early favorite among the finalists, Yamasaki was awarded the commission in September 1962 – and over the ensuing months developed a design for two elegant and monumental towers, containing almost 10 million square feet of space. When fully occupied, over 35,000 people worked in the towers.
Soon after its creation, images of the Twin Towers began appearing on the covers of The New Yorker, the weekly magazine known for its reporting on politics, culture, arts, and entertainment. Artists drawing the covers depicted the buildings in various creative settings, helping to cement the buildings as icons of modern life in America.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the magazine’s editors were compelled to mark the tragedy and considered using a photo for the cover for the first time in the publication’s history. Ultimately the magazine opted for a design jointly conceived by cartoonist Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker.
On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes. In the coordinated attack, two planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, one striking each of the Twin Towers, while the third plane was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.
The New York attacks were shown live on television on that beautiful morning, and the images from that terrible day live on in the minds of people around the world. Tragically, 2,977 victims died in the September 11 attacks.
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
In August 2002, after much public criticism, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced a competition for a master plan for the World Trade Center site. Daniel Libeskind entered the competition and was selected as the winner in February 2003. Libeskind carefully considered all that the site meant and the perspectives of the various constituencies who had a stake in the outcome: the city, the developer, and the families of the victims of the attacks, among many others.
In the end, Libeskind’s master plan reserved the core of the site for a memorial and reflective space, with a crescent of towers sweeping around a central park-like area. Symbolically, he proposed that the tallest building, which he named the Freedom Tower, should rise to a height of 1,776 feet, recalling the year when Americans drafted the world’s first document outlining fundamental human rights.
To Libeskind, the height would serve as a reminder of the ideals of tolerance on which our nation was founded.
MICHAEL ARAD’S MEMORIAL
Michael Arad was a young architect when he witnessed the horrific events of September 11. What he saw prompted him, almost immediately, to begin thinking about a memorial – a commemoration to those who had died and to all that was lost. He imagined a “pair of voids out in the Hudson River…two voids symbolizing the two towers.”
He soon built a small model with a water pump, but set it aside until the competition for a memorial on the World Trade Center site was announced a year later. Ultimately, his proposal for two pools, residing in the one acre footprints of each tower, was selected out of over 5,000 projects that were entered into the memorial competition.
Reflecting Absence is a monumentally sublime interjection into the urban fabric of Lower Manhattan, and has become the centerpiece of the new World Trade Center.
DAVID CHILDS’ ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER
In 2003, developer Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade Center site, commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David Childs to design the tallest building of the rebuilt complex. Childs’ eventual design, slated to occupy the northwest corner of the site, was for a building rising 103 stories above the plaza below, that together with an antenna, topped out at 1,776 feet.
The unique design of One World Trade Center, as the building is known, incorporates eight elongated triangular façade sections, with four pointed toward the sky and four pointed toward the ground. The arrangement of the triangles gives the tower the appearance that it twists as it rises. The building is simultaneously solemn, elegant, and powerful – a monumental obelisk – echoing the iconic shape of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital.
One World Trade Center was completed in 2014, and including its antenna, is the tallest building in the western hemisphere.
SANTIAGO CALATRAVA’S TRANSPORTATION HUB
Much of the rail transit infrastructure of the original World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11. In 2003, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hired Santiago Calatrava to design a new transit terminal on the site.
When it was presented in early 2004, Calatrava’s design for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, now known as the Oculus, received immediate acclaim from all quarters. The Oculus opened in 2016 after 12 years of construction. The white, steel-ribbed construction is characteristic of Calatrava’s work, but it is a form that stands in direct contrast to the rectilinear world of Manhattan. The oval structure has fins that stretch to the sky in all directions, almost like a bird taking flight. Inside, Calatrava created an open space, uninterrupted by columns and flooded with light, in direct reference to the great open spaces of Grand Central Terminal and the old Penn Station.
In many ways, the building stands as a temple – almost a spiritual space, and an overt message of hope – that lives up to Calatrava’s goal “to do something extraordinary.”
We remember the following William & Mary graduates who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks in New York City
Alysia Christine Burton Basmajian ’00
James Lee “Jimmy” Connor ’85
Michael Hardy Edwards ’90
Mark Gavin “Lud” Ludvigsen ’91
Christopher William Murphy MBA ’98
James Brian Reilly ’98
Gregory J. Trost ’97
And those who died in the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Donald Ryan McGlothlin ’01
Todd William Weaver ’08