The College of Architecture’s Centennial Lecture Series concluded this week with a talk by renowned designer and Tech alumnus Michael Arad. Arad is best known for being the finalist for the World Trade Center (WTC) Site Memorial Competition.
After living in Israel for almost 10 years and serving in the Israeli Army for almost three, he went to Dartmouth College to earn his bachelor’s degree and earned his master’s in Architecture from Tech in 1999.
During his lecture Wednesday night, Arad began by reminiscing about some of his moments from Tech, highlighting some of his more peculiar work with the administration.
He then went on to speak about his entry into the WTC competition, which involved approximately 5,000 designers and over 13,000 registrants, making it the largest design competition ever.
Arad created his design before the competition was even announced. He said he felt the absence of the WTC towers and wanted to capture what he felt in some sketches and models.
Arad originally designed what he felt after seeing a cake inside a window at a local bakery in New York City. The cake had a picture of the Twin Towers and stated “We Will Never Forget.” Arad realized that the baker used whatever tools he had available to him to commemorate the event and pay his respects, so Arad decided to do something similar with his tools as an architect.
When the competition was announced, Arad worked with many modelers for what would turn out to be a very long term project. He named his creation “Reflecting Absence,” since the primary feature of his design was the solemn void left by the towers.
Though his design was selected in January 2004, groundbreaking did not start until 2006, and the final project is estimated to be completed in 2011. Arad has said that the memorial will be temporarily opened for the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11.
Because of the emotions and politics involved in a design of this nature, Arad said he had to follow a very rigorous process of changing elements, both major and minor, in his original design. However, a vast majority of his original design is intact, Arad said, and the process has led to an expansion of features rather than a simple reduction.
The general idea of the design encompasses a sense of the void, in two large pools set in the footprints of the former Twin Towers, with an additional abyss in the middle of each pool.
By having to take things “back to the drawing board” on many occasions, Arad has faced many issues with the process of design.
Still, Arad said his education at Tech helped him in ways that most would not have imagined. He claimed that there was no “orthodoxy, no ‘-ism’” at Tech relating to its architectural and design discipline. “But I’m richer for that,” Arad said, referring to Tech’s lack of a specific instructional dogma.
For his impact in the field of architecture and his design for the WTC Site Memorial Competition, he was named one of six recipients of the Young Architects Award by the American Institute of Architects.