The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was an open, international memorial contest, initiated by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) according to the specifications of architect Daniel Libeskind, to design a World Trade Center Site Memorial (later renamed the National September 11 Memorial) on a portion of the World Trade Center site. The competition began April 28, 2003 and the winner—Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence—was revealed January 14, 2004 in a press conference at Federal Hall National Memorial in New York City. The contest garnered 5,201 entries from 63 nations and 49 U.S. states, out of 13,683 registrants from all 50 U.S. states and 94 nations, making it the largest design competition in history.
On March 5, 2002, Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) jointly announced plans for an interim memorial to the victims September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 World Trade Center attacks.
On January 2, 2003, LMDC and Port Authority announced that a series of public meetings would take place to discuss a future World Trade Center Site Memorial.
The Selection Jury for the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition were announced on April 10. The Competition began on April 28, when the Guidelines were released, Registration was opened. The LMDC accepted questions from competitors between April 28 and May 18, which were answered on its website on May 23 and removed at the end of the competition. Potential entrants were given until May 29 to register for the stated purpose of gauging the volume of entires. On May 15, the LMDC announced that it had received registrants from all 50 US states and 70 other nations; on May 30, the LMDC announced that 13,683 competitors had registered from 94 nations.
Submissions were accepted from registered entrants between June 9 and 30. On July 17, the LMDC announced that 5,201 submissions had been received, representing competitors from 49 U.S. states and 63 nations. The LMDC displayed the 8 finalists in the Winter Garden on November 19.
On February 19, 2004, all 5,201 entries on its website were made available on the LMDC's website. On April 8, the LMDC announced the creation of an Advisory Committee to ensure that the Competition Guidelines are incorporated into the final design, which had undergone revision since January 14. On April 13, the LMDC announced that associate architect Davis Brody Bond would assist Arad and Walker with their final design.
The online searchable archive of entries still exists , now under the auspices of the Memorial/Museum. The archive has only been reviewed in its entirety once for research [911memorialvisions.com].
There were five required "program elements":
In addition, entrants were expected to conform to the following "guiding principles":
Entries were examined by "LMDC staff" prior to jury review to determine whether they met the competition requirements. Although the Jury was allowed to review the list of ineligible submissions, the LMDC itself was to make the final determination.
The jury was selected by the LMDC in consultation with the mayor and governor. It consisted mostly of architects and artists but also individuals with other affiliations:
The jury selected 8 finalists:
Michael Arad and Peter Walker's Reflecting Absence consists of a field of trees interrupted by two large voids containing recessed pools, marking the footprints of the Twin Towers. The deciduous trees (swamp white oaks) are arranged in rows, forming informal clusters, clearings and groves. The park is at street level, sitting above the Memorial Museum. The World Trade Center site is a bathtub, as the area was excavated to construct the original World Trade Center and the earth was used to build Battery Park City, a neighboring residential community.
The names of the victims of the attacks (including those from the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93) and the 1993 bombing are inscribed on the parapets surrounding the waterfalls, in an arrangement based on "meaningful adjacencies".