Sunday, November 17, 2013

Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial

[View Larger Map]

When I was in Boston a while back, I spent a couple of nights at a hotel right at Logan Airport, a short skybridge trek from the main terminal. It turned out that the airport's 9/11 memorial was across the street, so I made a brief visit to it. Both of the planes that hit the World Trade Center towers took off from Logan Airport, and many of the passengers and crew aboard the planes were from Boston, so a memorial of some sort was obviously needed. But dealing with such a sensitive topic wouldn't be easy, and the local authorities didn't rush it. The memorial didn't open until 2008, and it's striking for how delicately, even gingerly, the memorial design treats its subject. I'm not sure I would have found it at all if my hotel hadn't been next to it. It's not in a place where airport visitors will stumble across it unexpectedly while going about their business. It has to be sought out deliberately. If you persevere and locate it, you'll see a landscaped plot with several paths, and a small glass cube set well back from the street. There's a small plaque indicating this is the memorial, and an inscription on the sidewalk refers obliquely to "the events of September 11th, 2001". The long winding paths aren't in any hurry to get you to the cube, and meander around the landscaped area. When you get to the cube, nothing about its exterior says "memorial" at all. Only once you're inside do you see the lists of names of those on the two flights. As you might imagine, the memorial's lightly visited. In the few days I was there, I didn't see a single person (other than myself) visit it.

Of course not everyone's a fan. It made a conspiracy site's list of the "Top 5 Worst 9/11 Memorials", which points out that this memorial strongly resembles an Apple store. I will allow that this is true. It's actually a decent list, and a couple of the others on the list are genuinely terrible. Although from the site's standpoint anything that doesn't say "false flag" probably counts as a bad memorial.

I started out thinking this was a strange memorial myself, and considered writing a snarky post complaining about it. Then I started thinking, ok, what would I have done differently, if somehow I'd gotten the job to design it? Would it be a better memorial if it didn't tiptoe around the subject quite so much? Maybe if it was somewhere in the airport where travelers -- who might be afraid of flying anyway -- could stumble across it and be surprised? If it was anything at all like the hideous 9/11 memorial in Portland that I griped about a few years ago? Well, no, none of the above. I get that it's a sensitive topic. This post sat around in Drafts for about a year, while I tried to figure out the right tone and the right timing. I didn't want to post it near 9/11 (since I've already said everything I ever want to about that day), or too close to any of our many military-themed holidays, and then I put it on extended hold after the Boston Marathon bombing so as not to seem exploitative. So like the actual designers, I'm pretty sure I would have erred on the side of endless trigger warnings and chances to back out, and the most understated and least graphic treatment I could pull off without seeming to downplay the "events". And I probably would have said "events".

1 comment :

Understated said...

There is a lot symbolism in what you described, a lot and this is not a criticism but I guess you missed it.

Two paths two planes, meeting at a cube the shape of the WT Towers individually, the pieces of reflective glass stung above, the glass shards falling etc.

Yes, very understated.