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A Masterpiece at Ground Zero

Furthermore, the perforated portions of its metal panel cladding give the museum entry structure the mechanistic feel of a thinly camouflaged ventilation equipment housing. One can easily imagine that in due course this will be the first part of the memorial ensemble to be redesigned.

Whatever one’s feelings about the events of September 11, 2001, or their baneful political aftereffects, it seems impossible not to be moved in some way by Arad’s memorial. I came away with the same feeling that overtakes one after a funeral or memorial service for a relative or close friend, even though I knew no one who perished at the World Trade Center, or even someone who knew anyone who did.

In creating something at once so monumentally simple and yet so evocatively complex, Arad reconfirms the radical reconception of public memorial design that Maya Lin set in motion with her Vietnam War Memorial three decades ago. Lin herself was accused at the time by some critics of basing her work too closely on the ideas of Michael Heizer, Richard Serra, and other Earth Art or Minimalist sculptors. But the test of time has proven the validity of her insights into the wellsprings of mourning in the modern age, and with his profound variations on her themes, Michael Arad has become one of the signal placemakers of our time.

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