Gallery: PHOTOS: Tour the Beautiful National 9/11 Memorial in NYC

Image © Jill Fehrenbacher for Inhabitat
The moment you enter the new 9/11 Memorial, you hear the sound of falling water, a sound that gets louder and more prominent as you go deeper into the site. Standing on the edge of a pool, the waterfalls drown out all other sounds, even the clatter from the surrounding construction sites, letting you quietly reflect on your thoughts.

Arad’s design was selected from a global competition that received more than 5,200 submissions from 63 nations. The reflecting pools, which sit in the exact footprints of the Twin Towers, are the center of the memorial. The pools as are large voids, a visible reminder of the absence of the towers that resonates with the loss that came from the destruction of the World Trade Center. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and they feature the largest man made waterfalls in North America. The moment you enter the memorial, you hear the sound of falling water, a sound that gets louder and more prominent as you go deeper into the site. Standing on the edge of a pool, the waterfalls drown out all other sounds, even the clatter from the surrounding construction sites, letting you quietly reflect on your thoughts.

“We wanted to create a place that remarked on absence but also did so in a way that connected the site back into the life of the city,” said Arad, explaining that they did not want the memorial to be something set apart from the city that people visited once then forgot about. “It’s something that is set very much in the life of New York City. People will be here every day whether there’s visitors to the memorial, or office workers coming down here, or whether it’s neighborhood residents with their kids. It’s bringing the past into the present and saying that the legacy of that day is with us every day.”

Bronze panels edging the pools are inscribed with the name of every single person who died on September 11, as well as the terror attacks in 1993. Family members have already placed flowers and other tokens of love on the placards. Arranging the names was one of the more complicated components of the design. First, the names are arranged into nine major groups: the North Tower, the South Tower, the Pentagon, Flight 11, Flight 93, Flight 175, Flight 77, First Responders, and February 26, 1993. Then the names are arranged into smaller, more meaningful groups. For example, all of the employees from a company are inscribed together, as well as the firefighters from the same Engine.

But what is truly special about how the names are arranged is that the next-of-kin were all asked if they would like their relative’s name to be next to another victim’s name. Twelve-hundred adjacency requests were made, and every single one of them was fulfilled. “It allows for such special meaning,” said memorial President Joe Daniels. He added that special mobile apps show the public which connections they made for each name. “It starts to begin to tell that story of the lives behind the people that were lost.” Visitors can also use kiosks located around the site to find specific names and learn about the memorial.

The street-level plaza surrounding the pools is an eco-friendly plaza that’s aiming for LEED Gold certification. The 8-acre plaza has irrigation, stormwater and pest management systems that conserve energy and water, and it is planted with 442 swamp white oak trees, as they are natural reminders of life and rebirth. The plaza has a suspended paving system that supports the trees and allows their roots to expand in the nutrient-rich soil below the cement. The system allows for stable pavement that does not apply pressure to the soil or trees’ roots.

The trees were all trimmed to exactly 11-feet high, creating rows of solid tree trunks that march in east-west lines through the plaza, drawing your eye to the pools. Stone benches are placed throughout the trees, creating shaded resting places for visitors to gather. “These trees, like memory itself, demand the care and nurturing of those who visit and tend them,” Arad said in his proposal. “They remember life with living forms, and serve as living representations of the destruction and renewal of life in their own annual cycles.”

The memorial is free to the public, but visitors must reserve passes online.

“I think what I wanted to do here is really encourage that moment of introspection and to bring people to the very edge of these enormous voids and reflect on what happened here that day,” says Arad. “I think that these reflections are going to be very personal in nature. People will react very differently to these memorials. There’s not a single, universal and correct way to understand what happened that day. But what we’ve tried to build here, I’ve compared it in the past to a moment of silence. And how you use that moment of silence is very much a personal matter.”

+ National 9/11 Memorial

All images © Amanda Silvana Coen and Jill Fehrenbacher for Inhabitat


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  1. Eudene Harry July 8, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I won’t forget the day my middle son Damon Harry called me at work 2pm South African time, to say “Ma, they have just bombed the World Trade Centre in NYC” I was shocked and asked him how, he explained “kamikaze style ma!”It was the biggest event I read about since the Vietnam War.I was honoured that in 2012 my son Damon travelled to New York and his greatest day was spent at the memorial pools. Then in June 2013, my youngest son, Zachary & I, together with my 3 brothers & their families travelled to America for a holiday.Needless to say, my greatest day in New York was visiting the pools of rememberance, grieving with the families of the victims,pondering on all the names, & saying a prayer for them.Standing at ground zero watching the buildings being built and looking at the New World Tower almost complete.I am honoured that I could witness the restoration of New York City, it has always meant so much to me & my sons here in South Africa

  2. jbode March 14, 2014 at 7:05 am

    The new site looks really pretty . My hat come off for the people that made this happen. It is so beautiful it takes my breath away and puts tears in my eyes.

  3. ohmisha September 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    @StSteel – I see what you see and find it dismaying. It upsets what was intended to be a serene setting, unless you can manage to situate yourself so that you block out everything but a view to the west… and @ michael burke – all I can say is I agree, while I must admit the pools falls are beautiful,
    The sink-hole at their center seems entirely arbitrary in proportion and might better have been reflecting pools, which is what I was expecting to see.
    The site over-all is a grave disappointment for me. Completely disjointed cacophony of styles, juxtaposition, scale, and design styles. No sense of place in the end a disaster aesthetically.

  4. November 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Are copies of any of these photos available for sale?

  5. GMJ November 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I agree with you ststeel, totally and completely agree with what you said about the twisted building. It’s just the way I feel about Ghery’s Disney Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. All I see when I look at that twisted mass is what LA may look like after the big earthquake. I’m not impressed with the fountains either. The small square in the middle is too final for me. Everything is going down, the big flush, rather than rising up toward the sky. For me, the most moving part of the memorial is the surviving pear tree that stirred a lot of emotion for a lot of people snapping photos of the one moment of renewal.

  6. Guerin October 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    a new work about September 11 memorial :

  7. michael burke September 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Everything Arad says here to describe his design points out what is wrong with it. Look carefully; do you see anything that reminds you of the attacks? Of what happened here? Any of the authentic artifacts that immediatly remind us of the attacks and testify to them – for eternity? All there is a vast artistic expression of what happened here. Nothing authentic. Where else have we done this?

    Would Arad advocate we dispose of all the evidence of the death camps at Auschwtiz and replace them with some artistic expression designed to express feelings about the crimes committed there?

    “There’s not a single, universal and correct way to understand what happened that day” Arad says. Which would be fine – if you did not first eradicate all the authentic evidence of what did happen that day. If that is truly your goal, why not return the damaged Koenig Sphere? Arad told me that would be “didactic.” It would tell us what to think. But disposing of an authentic artifact is not “didactic?” Does the USS Arizona dictate “a single universal and correct way to understand what happened that day?”

    Or is that a crock – nothing but an exericise in egotism?

    “…build a moment of silence and how we use that is a very personal matter?”

    Not here it’s not. Is a visit to Auschwitz such a personal matter that we wipe out evidence of the death camps? We do not here have the option of not confronting the crime committed here. We have an obligation to those who died that we preserve and faithfully convey how and why they died. Forget that, as Arad does, convinced that our only obligation at this place is to ourselves, and we betray their memory.

  8. Jill Fehrenbacher September 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Hi StSteel-

    The building behind the 9/11 Memorial is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, designed by Snohetta. It isn’t open yet, but will be opening soon:

    We’ll be reporting more on the museum soon!

    -Jill from Inhabitat

  9. lazyreader September 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Never mind the fact that the people who built it don’t know how to spell.

    Jeffrey Schreier was killed on 9/11 while working at Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm based in the World Trade Center that was nearly wiped out in the attacks. But on the memorial unveiled this weekend, Schreier’s first name was misspelled as “Jeffery,” a spokesman for the memorial, Michael Frazier, said. There has also been controversy over how to organize the victims’ names. At first, the idea was to arrange them without any order, because of the random nature of the way the victims died. But after family members and firefighters complained, the plan changed. Spouses and family members are grouped together, as are co-workers from companies in the tower. First responders’ names are engraved in a ribbon on a parapet overlooking the south reflecting pool, and are grouped by command, precinct or company. There is no grouping by rank, however, for either firefighters or police officers.

  10. ststeel September 13, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Thank you for the pix of the Memorial, but can you comment on the slopey bent trendy little building behind it? The museum? Please tell me that its not Calatrava’s transportation building. If so, I am so disappointed. As a backdrop to the calm serenity of the waterfalls, this new building evokes the horror of the crumbling and twisted towers that it replaces and creates a real sense of anxiety and pain… the opposite of what the memorial is intended to do.. right? Does anyone else get this feeling?

  11. interested900 September 12, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    these photos are amazing! thank you!!!

  12. dregstudios September 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    This is a fitting memorial but remember 10 years after this tragedy, our government and men of power use 9/11 as a lightning rod for the production of Mass FEAR and control. Our Constitutional Rights are being squandered through The Patriot Act and more recently, internet censorship laws. See my visual commentary on living in this Orwellian state on my artist’s blog at