WTC Memorial Competition Show-and-Tell

A couple nights ago I attended an exhibition of local entries to the World Trade Center Memorial Design Competition at the Graham Foundation. From the 5,201 entries submitted (less than half of the original 13,000+ registrations), 135 entries came from Illinois, as indicated by the LMDC's web page which recently posted all the submissions (accessible by link above), browseable by country and state or searchable by name. Roughly 70 of the 135 Illinois entries came from the Chicago and its metropolitan area, with about 20 entrants agreeing to show their submitted designs in a one-night-only exhibit. Notable names included local architects Stanley Tigerman and John Vinci and the Graham Foundation's director Richard Solomon.

Two things struck me as I looked at the designs, both concerning the difficulty of the endeavor: first, the difficulty of the jury deciding between 5,201 entries and second, the difficulty of each entrant, or team, as they tried to create a physical response to the grief and terror of the 9/11 events with extremely tight programmatic restrictions (these restrictions became even tighter during the duration of the memorial selection process and will continue in the same direction as all the interested parties try to sort out the future of the site). These thoughts were reiterated by people I talked to that night and (to a lesser extent) by finalists Brian Strawn and Karla Sierralta as they gave a brief presentation on their design, Dual Memory. Although young (they are both graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago), their sincerity in trying to find an appropriate solution to an event that didn't affect them directly but reached them - like much of the country and world - mainly through images and words was refreshing. Explicating the subsequent seven-week process illuminated some much-aligned facts: the $100,000 stipend each entry received divvied up 3/4 equally amongst the model builder, renderer and animation artist, with the remaining 1/4 to the competitors. These facts help to explain the consistency in presentation among the eight finalists.

Consistency in presentation was not limited to the finalists' submissions, though, as I learned from my friend Brandon that the design guidelines dictated the exact sizes, locations and orientations of required drawings and text. These guidelines achieved two intentions: first, to allow members of the jury not versed in reading architectural drawings a means of comparison that would lead to comprehension and second, to allow the jury to handle the 5,201 entries in a timely fashion. Furthermore, I believe the required consistency played down the role of presentation that can win or lose a competition, focusing the jury's reading of the submissions to their ideas, something else refreshing.