Architect Michael Arad faced test after test while seeing his design for the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site become a reality.
His twin reflecting pools, called “Reflecting Absence,” today are the largest manmade waterfalls in North America, each nearly an acre.
The waterfalls sit within the footprint of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, which fell in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City.
Arad will visit UNC Charlotte’s school of Architecture Aug. 20, opening day for the school year, to talk about architecture and the lengthy process through which he delivered an exhibit of international significance.
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Arad has dual citizenship in the U.S. and his native Israel. He has lived in New York since 1999 and was a witness to the collapse of the twin towers.
Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of four coordinated attacks that day. Nineteen terrorists associated with the extremist group al-Qaida are linked to the hijacking of four commercial jetliners used in the attacks.
Two planes crashed into the upper floors of the World Trade Center’s North and South towers in Manhattan.
Many people trapped inside the burning buildings jumped to their deaths before the buildings collapsed in a thunderous cloud, burying civilians and emergency responders.
A third plane hit the Pentagon building, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. sponsored an international competition for a memorial design in 2003.
Arad was a partner with the New York firm Handel Architects. He set out to create a design that was stoic, defiant and compassionate, he said.
His design won over more than 5,000 entries submitted from 63 nations. Arad was 34 then.
The memorial opened last year, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. More than 4 million people have visited, many to find the names of friends and relatives on the walls surrounding the waterfalls.
The design earned a Presidential Citation this year from the American Institute of Architects, as well as an invitation to the convocation at UNCC’s school of architecture.
Though Arad’s work has attracted millions of people, students at the university’s architecture school may not be familiar with him or his design, said Ken Lambla, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture.
Discussions about Arad’s memorial to the lives lost are expected to give students a different way to think about places where people connect as a community.
“This one probably received the most visibility and has been the most complex in terms of respecting the families and the entire country’s complex feelings about what has happened and why it happened and what happened since,” Lambla said of the memorial.
“Those qualities are embodied in his design in a brilliant way,” he said.