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Announcement of the Pentagon Memorial Competition Entries Selected as Finalists

Presenter: Dick McGraw
October 17, 2002 1:00 PM EDT

(Announcement of the Pentagon Memorial Competition Entries Selected as Finalists. Also participating: Contest Juror New York Museum of Modern Art Chief Curator of Design and Architecture Terry Riley and Project Manager Carol Anderson-Austra.)

McGraw: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're a little bit early, but I think we'll go ahead and start, since time is tight for us. My name is Dick McGraw, and this has nothing to do with my day job, those of you whom I know.

So we have some visiting German journalists in the back. "Guten Tag." (Off-mike greetings from German journalists.)

Shortly after the attack on the Pentagon a year ago, work was begun on the development of a Pentagon memorial. A site was chosen. A call went out around the world for ideas and proposals. A jury was selected. And that jury has narrowed 1,126 qualified proposals down to the six you see on these posters.

I'm not going to take any more time other than to introduce Mr. Terry Riley, who was selected by the jurors as their leader, if you will. Terry is the chief curator of design and architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Terry's going to spend a little bit of time on each of these proposals, and then we will take your questions to the extent that time allows. You know, the secretary of Defense has a press briefing in here at 1:30 promptly, so at 1:25 this stuff will be gone. So I'll cut you off at that time.

Terry?

Riley: Thank you, Dick.

You all have reproductions of the boards in your press kits, so I'm going to try to do a very brief explanation of each scheme and leave as much time for questions as we can.

There's a specific site for this project, for this proposal -- proposed project. It is on the property between the east facade --

Mr. [?]: West.

Riley: -- west facade of the Pentagon, the site of the attack, and the expressway, which is a kind of boundary on the property. That's part of the information packet, as well.

In general, in terms of talking about all the schemes, we've looked at 1,100 proposals. As three days wore on, we moved closer and closer towards, I think, a kind of common understanding about what we were looking for, if not necessarily which specific projects we were looking for. There were 11 jurors. Six were artists or design professionals, and there were five people representing various constituencies: the families, the people related to the Pentagon in terms of family relationships or being on staff.

Anyway, we began to realize, I think, what a powerful effect or an influence that the Vietnam Memorial had on our own thinking. And to me, looking back, it's, I think, interesting to note how much that memorial has changed everyone's thinking about what a memorial is, whether it's architects and artists or the general public. And without making any direct comparisons, there were certain things, I think, are familiar to those who know the Vietnam Memorial. One is the kind of interactivity, if you want to call it that. I don't think it was designed as such, but if you do go there, because there is a name for each person, family members, friends have a place to go, and there's always bouquets of flowers or notes or some sort of interplay between the memorial and the visitors. Like the Vietnam Memorial, it's a kind of mixture of metaphors, some of which come from traditional military monuments, some which come from individual, more secular burial traditions, and it becomes a kind of interesting mix of those.

There's a tendency towards abstraction. I think the lesson of the Vietnam Memorial was that when a memorial is somewhat abstract, people of different faiths, different philosophies, different attitudes towards the war, can approach the monument and they can kind of find in it that which they are seeking to find.

And, of course, in this situation, a third or more of the victims were on the plane; they had nothing to do with the Pentagon or the military. And so it was -- and assuming -- we have no specifics -- varied and broad different religious or philosophical beliefs, we can't presume to do something more than provide a memorial that allows people to have those feelings which they, themselves, bring to the memorial.

Like the Vietnam -- again, there are others I could refer to, but since it's here and I'm sure you've all seen it, I just keep referring to it -- there seems to be an importance in the minds of not only the jury but many of the designers that somehow you have to create a way to express the communal sense of remembrance, the whole, as well as reserve some sort of space or some sort of way of remembering the individual as well. So there's a kind of back and forth between a larger memorial to the event and then the individual names or some other device which helps remember the individuals who died on that day.

So you have the packages -- you have these images in front of you, if you want to refer to them that way. There's also the boards and there is the PowerPoint, so it's fairly well covered. I think I might point to the boards, and you can then refer to whatever other information you have as you would like.

Again, the facade of the Pentagon; the point of impact was right there. Here you see the edge of the site curving around the expressway. All the projects happen in this area. This is the designated area for the memorial. This is a fairly recognizable, traditional form in a certain sense; it's a grove of trees. The visitors would pass on to this plinth, walk through the trees, and within the grove find this sculptural monument. The names are engraved on this. There is a kind of interplay between the solid of the memorial as well as the voids, and I think those voids in this case are very symbolic and important. So the whole is represented by the monument, and then the individual names.

As you can see, it is canted slightly. And what the designer did was rotate the orientation of the monument so it corresponded with the flight path of the plane as it came on impact. This was -- you know, the nature of this catastrophe obviously is something very hard for the families. This sort of a reminder of that path was seen to be something that people could accept intellectually. Some of the other schemes had a much more sort of, shall we say, almost too aggressive reflection of that.

Now, this is a two-stage competition, and if you read the text, you'll probably have some of the same problems we did understanding one aspect of this, which is that the monument as a whole consists of this piece, which is on the Pentagon site, but the concept -- and it's not exactly clear, and I think it means it's not exactly worked out in the architect's or designer's mind -- parts of the monument can be removed and placed either in the victim's hometown or with the family. Again, not very worked out, but we thought it's something we should encourage and see what they develop. So in other words, the monument actually expands and becomes not just in one place, but in many places.

The next scheme -- now, what's happening here is a lot of different pieces of information are being superimposed over one another. This is a site plan. This is really a graph. Now, this line doesn't actually exist; that's simply the borders of the site where the monument can go. The highway is here. And this -- it's like a state boundary between two states, I mean, there's a line somewhere but it's not an actual, physical line that you would see.

These monuments are arrayed from left to right as you're looking at them, by the age of the person that died. So the youngest, I believe, was a seven-year-old, or maybe younger, moving across to the eldest. It creates a kind of field. This is another type of civilian monument, a kind of cemetery, where each -- the whole is really the field created by the individual monuments. In this case they are cast metals. I think it's incorrect to call them benches, but they use that term so we would use it. Each bench has a name with a tree associated, and it rises up from the earth creating a kind of void below. There would be water, almost like a small reflecting pool, with light in each one. The images -- the details, I'm sure you can catch up there.

This image, and I think it's the last one of this, shows that light sort of rising up. Here the designer also tried to make some symbolic distinction; the ones facing the Pentagon were the people -- represent the people who died in the plane; the ones facing away from the Pentagon represent the victims that died in the Pentagon. And I think I mentioned also there's a tree planted by each one. So that's -- it's a kind of mixture of that metaphor of a field or a grove.

The next is -- (to staff) -- and the slide that just keeps going. I'm not looking, right? Okay.

Staff: Yeah. Don't look. Don't look.

Riley: Okay. I won't get distracted.

This -- again, the highway here, the corner of the Pentagon here -- this proposes a kind of, again, planted trees, with these paths and places of repose. The designer here proposed a reflecting pool with a kind of little island in it, if you will, with these small bridges that would allow visitors to walk across on to the memorial itself.

Now if you look at this image here, the -- it's recognizable, a certain kind of monumental character, very tall slabs of glass engraved with the names of the deceased. I would say a kind of familiar language in the sense of if you think of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- the broad, flat, abstract plane, with a very precise inscription. It sort of reminds me of that.

Now if you look at this image, you realize it's not just slabs of glass, though; it's actually a double wall. It's a kind of construction. And what's happening -- I'm not a scientist. I can't explain this exactly, but the principle is a rather domestic one. You know that if the air is hotter or cooler on one side of the glass than the other, condensation falls out, and the surface becomes covered with dew. It's called the dew point when there's -- when it reaches that point.

And the idea was that as each of these monuments became covered with dew, the family members or anyone could come and do whatever child does at school when they're bored, which is write their name or write a message on the glass. It's got this kind of poignancy. Of course, it disappears by the next day. It's not unlike a floral bouquet that's left and eventually, you know, dries and blows away.

It's not unlike, I also thought, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where people go, write a message on a little piece of paper and, you know, insert this fragile piece of paper between these massive blocks of stone. So it's a kind of interesting back-and-forth between something that's very permanent and something that's very transient.

The next is -- there's no site plan here, so all I can say is, it is in that area that it's supposed to be in. It's -- we assume.

It consists of a space that's created by a perimeter wall with a garden all the way around and covered with ivy. On the other side is a very tall, polished granite wall. In the center is this extremely long table. It has both, I think, in some ways, religious connotations, but in other ways very domestic, very secular.

There are these granite stools that represent -- one for each of every person that died. It looks almost like a zipper, it's so long, and that's to get every piece table. The table is used as a symbol of reconciliation, a place where one can go with one's thoughts about who died, and make peace, as it was, with memories, et cetera. I think very subtly and very interestingly, there's no view of the crash site, but the Pentagon itself is reflected in the glass -- or in the polished granite. So there is a kind of memory or ghost of the Pentagon, but not that sort of dead-on view that a lot of the family members found a little bit too aggressive.

You actually go down a ramp to get to this room. If you look at this little drawing here, this is a section, as if you cut right through it, and you can see that most of the memorial is just below grade. So in other words, once you get down into this memorial, you not only cannot see the Pentagon, you can't see the highway, you can't really see anything else but the sky. So there's a kind of transporting quality to it.

One turns around the corner and then walks up a ramp and that's the way out.

This, again, is one of these drawings that superimposes much information one on top of the other. You're looking at down here the plan. Again, this is much like a cemetery. It's a field where the memorial is really just the sum of the individual markers for each person. The designer used the metaphor of a flight recorder as a kind of device that retains memory, and this would be what the top view of one of those, these raised vertical markers would be. And the dotted lines represent its volume.

Within the marker there would be a mirror. There is a place where, if the family members desired, some object could be placed that was a reminder or symbol of the person that died, on the glass cover, words of the individual could be inscribed; and there's a kind of poetic thing, obviously, of looking down, the mirror reflecting the sky and the individual memento or words.

And the last is perhaps the most modest, in a certain sense, certainly in terms of scale, but I think it has a very important element to it that needs to be remembered. It's a kind of podium. It's a kind of truncated cone. And it's shunted -- the apex is shunted to one side so it's directionally oriented towards the Pentagon and the crash site. The names of all the victims are inscribed along the base of it.

And the designer referred to it as a democratic monument, in the sense that it's the pedestal, but the viewer, the visitor, is actually the person or the thing that occupies the pedestal. And so what you realize is that what the monument does is it places you in a position to look at the Pentagon to reflect on what happened, and it's protected by a grove of trees, so you're in your own, sort of, space. But really what it does is it creates the monument in your head. It positions you to reflect on what happened. And the monument then is suggestive and contemplative. And what's interesting, of course, is that when you leave the monument, you leave with the monument, with the memory. And it isn't so much about saying, "Oh, I went and saw it." It's something that you go and you experience.

It took a while to really grasp it. It's very simple. But once we did, we were very moved by it.

McGraw: We have people here from the Corps of Engineers who are managing the project. We have other jurors, professional consultants here. If you have questions, we'll be happy to take them for the next five minutes or so. Your press kits have all the information as well as the name of Mary Beth Thompson, who is the Public Affairs person for the Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, which is the unit that's managing this project. And I would urge you, if you have further questions or want to talk to people and interview jurors or whatever, to give Mary Beth a call. Her number is in there.

In the meantime, we will be happy to take your questions. Yes?

Q: Just curious if there are any budget considerations or budget constraints in this, what you're looking at and how it will be paid for. And also, where -- I know there's something that happens in December. When do you hope to get this thing off the ground, or decided on and off the ground?

McGraw: Carol Austra-Anderson? Anderson-Austra, excuse me.

Anderson-Austra: That's all right.

I'm the project manager for this project. And what we're doing is, as you know, having a two-stage competition. What happens now is that these competitors have about eight weeks to go back and develop these designs. They will come back with developed designs, get some technical input and help from the families as well, and then the jurors will meet again and select the one that they think is the best for the site.

When we actually start digging? We can't even tell you. We'd love to. Everyone wants that date. But depending on how complex the project is and how much work we have to do to do what we call construction documents, because what we have --

Q: Closer to the microphone.

Anderson-Austra: Okay. Sorry.

What we have to do is have the designer bring back their more- developed plan, and then we'll have to go through a construction document phase where how deep to dig is decided and what materials exactly are used is decided, and where you get them and how they're engraved. There are many, many details that will have to be worked out. After that, we will begin to dig.

Q: Are you looking at -- do you have a sort of a goal for picking the winning --

Anderson-Austra: Absolutely. We're looking now at mid- December. We may push that back just a little bit to give everyone a little bit more time to work on this. We're looking for at least early in the next year to begin working on our construction documents.

Yes?

McGraw: To answer your question about the budget, there is no budget yet. When the Congress authorized the construction of the memorial in the '02 authorization bill, they did not appropriate any funds for it, but they did say that the funds could come out of the O&M budget and could come out of those monies contributed toward the renewal of the Pentagon and the construction of the memorial. So funds are there, but a budget hasn't been set yet.

Q: And have you set a cap?

McGraw: Not really. Really wanted to see what came in. I mean, what came in could have been $5 or $100 or a couple billion dollars. I mean, we really didn't know. So we didn't want to restrict anybody with arbitrary thoughts of numbers, large or small.

Anderson-Austra: It was important for the families. They said. the first time we met with them, they don't want something ostentatious. However, you can see from these designs, some are quite simple and could be less expensively constructed, and some are more complicated. So we're looking to see what we come up with.

Q: I'm wondering if you can give us some examples of what additional details they'll be submitting in a next phase?

Anderson-Austra: Well, one of the things we all noticed when we were working with the jury is that these don't have very well developed site plans -- how do you get to this site, and how does it really fit on the site. The designers were pretty careful about the constraints that we told them about, like there are some utilities, and this and that. But, you know, when you're engineering something, you have to figure out exactly how deep does the foundation have to be, exactly where do you get the stone, exactly how is it cut.

Q: How far will this be from the impact point, approximately?

Anderson-Austra: The border of this is 165 feet from the face of the Pentagon.

Q: And in what direction?

Anderson-Austra: It's right out -- it's parallel to that face of the Pentagon --

McGraw: This is the West face of the Pentagon, Charlie. This is the corner, Southwest corner.

Anderson-Austra: This is the flight path that the airplane --

McGraw: Carol, go to the microphone, please.

Anderson-Austra: Okay. That dotted line is the flight path. So you can see how they oriented that. And that is the West face. And the boundary of the site is parallel to the West face and 165 feet away.

Yes?

Q: I have one question, what about the public opinion? Do the people in Washington have a chance to take part in this decision?

Anderson-Austra: Well, part of this -- we were on a pretty tight time frame for this, but we wanted to get as much input as we could, and one of the ways we did that, number one, we worked the families, the family group, right away. And we have two family members who were on the jury. And we also had the focus group, that's people with the Pentagon and the neighborhoods. And part of the point of having a competition was that anyone could enter. This was a project, with our time frame and with all the people who were interested, we really couldn't have town meetings everywhere all over the world. But we had 2,500 registrations, and they came from Georgia in Russia, Pakistan, the Solomon Islands, India, all over. And so it wasn't just local people, it was people all over the world who felt affected.

Q: How many did you get, including the ones that could not qualify for whatever reason?

Anderson-Austra: You know, I haven't counted the ones that didn't qualify, because if they weren't the right size or the right format, we just didn't have time to fool with them. I'll count them later. The ones who met the criteria were 1,126.

McGraw: We have time for just about two more questions, folks.

Anderson-Austra: Yes.

Q: I'm sorry, a point of clarification. You said 1,126 were qualified. But you said 2,500 registrations?

Anderson-Austra: Yes. We asked people to register their intent to send in a design.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Anderson-Austra: About half, right.

Q: Okay.

Q: Yes, has there been any discussion of pedestrian access to site?

Anderson-Austra: A lot. You probably know this is a difficult site. Anyplace around the Pentagon is difficult. If you're anywhere near that site now, you see groups of people coming off the Metro and walking there. So the Metro is the clear choice for how people could get there. We think there will be some parking supplied in the south parking or whatever. But those are things we'll have to work out later.

McGraw: Folks, I'm sorry. We have to cut this off. The secretary's got a press briefing. We need to get these slides out of here. But you have the press kit, and you have Mary Beth Thompson's phone number. I urge you to call her if you have further questions. Thank you.

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