NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM -
New York, New York, 2014
Architects: Davis Brody Bond
Architects (Museum Entry Pavilion): Snøhetta
General Contractor: Lend Lease
Structural Engineers: BuroHappold
Exhibition Designers: Thinc Design
Photographers: Tom Hennes/Thinc Design
To honor the memory of those who tragically lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the heart of the former World Trade Center site in New York, serves as a complement to the National September 11 Memorial. The museum tells the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental artifacts, while commemorating the life of every victim of the 2001 and 1993 terrorists attacks.
Rather than treating the museum as an “icon containing exhibits”, Davis Brody Bond (DBB) has designed a structure that is made up of a “series of icons, which are the exhibit”. As visitors embark on their journey through the 125,000-square-foot, subterranean museum, their experience is broken up into four primary components
The first is entrance and orientation. Visitors will pass through the Snohetta-designed Museum Pavilion, whose large atrium provides ample amounts of natural light into depths of the museum while displaying two structural columns rescued from the original towers. The visitors will then descend into the first, below-grade level of the Memorial Hall, transitioning their senses from the bright and active life of the plaza to the quieter, more contemplative environment of the museum.
The procession continues through introductory exhibits positioned along a gradually sloped path. The surface is described as a “meandering ribbon”, whose gentle slope guides the visitor down “as if drawn by gravity”. At key points along this route there are carefully composed views and overlooks into the space beyond, revealing key artifacts and historic resources. At this point the vast scale of the site becomes clear.
Once visitors reach the last viewing platform, they will descend the final stretch of the path to the ‘bedrock’ level, known as the West Chamber, which contains the foundations of the original World Trade Center. Here, the visitor will arrive at the third stage of his/her experience. At this lowest level of the museum and WTC complex, the original column bases and concrete footings that supported the twin towers are exposed in the floor slab of the museum, defining a clear outline of the former towers. A surviving retaining wall or the original WTC, known as the “slurry wall”, is exposed and serves as a backdrop for the 36-foot “Last Column” - the final piece of steel structure that was removed from Ground Zero, whose surfaces had been gradually covered with moving written testaments and photos during the rescue and recovery effort.
The fourth and final stage of the visitor’s experience is a gradual ascent by escalator from ‘bedrock’ back to Memorial Hall, framing controlled views out to the aluminum-clad tower volumes. Arrival in Memorial Hall is followed by a walk back up to the plaza, the memorial fountains and the active life of the city.