Life Is All Around
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 12/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Photo by Melissa Kaseman, courtesy of Starfire Lighting.
The crunch of footsteps on gravel. Gentle glowing light. Lapping waters. These are the sensory experiences visitors encounter at the recently dedicated Pentagon Memorial commemorating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in Arlington, Virginia. "Our intention was to create something otherworldly, yet tactile," says Julie Beckman, copartner with Keith Kaseman of KBAS, the winner of the memorial's international design competition. Chosen from 1,200 submissions by a jury led by Miami Art Museum director Terence Riley, the installation occupies the 2-acre park on the Pentagon's West Lawn, adjacent to the point of impact of American Airlines Flight 77.
"We thought How do you show the sheer magnitude of what happened without being representational," Kaseman adds. The designers decided on streamlined units—184 of them, one for each victim, engraved with his or her name—of cast stainless steel that peel up from the ground and cantilever over a water-filled basin, lit at night by a custom induction lamp. Each is orientated either toward the Pentagon—for those killed in the building—or away from it—for those on the plane, and has a granite top that, at 5½ feet long, acts as a bench for up to six people. "It's a place for families, for contemplation," says Beckman.
Dotting the gravel-covered site are 85 paperbark maples, which KBAS selected for their year-round interest. Like any deciduous tree, their leaves change color seasonally. But unlike other species, their cinnamon-brown bark peels with age, revealing new life beneath.