Sunday, October 5, 2008
I had the chance to visit the newly opened Pentagon Memorial here in DC yesterday. After living in the DC area for over 13 years and visiting every memorial in the city multiple times over, I found this to be one of the most engaging and touching. It was designed Philadelphia firm KBAS-Studio.
As you enter the site from the Pentagon parking lot, you see the field of green 'things' ahead, somewhat difficult to make out, because these illuminated benches don't fit the typical profile or shape of a bench you see everyday. The first thing I did was to study one of these benches, or 'memorial units' as the website calls them. Each bench contains the name of a victim that dies the day the plane hit the pentagon, 184 in total. They consist of a cantilevered bench, illuminated by a light shooting up from under a rippling pool beneath the seating surface. This rippling effect creates a kind of dazzling green light on the underside of the bench, making it a very surreal thing to see at night.
I really only understood the design decisions after walking through and experiencing the whole sit. The memorial focuses heavily on time & place. Time-wise, the benches are in rows according to the birth year of the victim. the benches face different directions; the victims' names that were in the building are readable with the pentagon in the back ground, the victims' names on board flight 77 are readable with the sky as a backdrop. A wall that surrounds the whole site rises from 3" above the seating surface to 71", the age range of the victims. This wall presents all the victims as a whole, as a single tragic event, the benches present them as individuals.
I saw a man by himself sitting on one of these benches, head down, in silence, and understood exactly what this memorial was for. The bench extracts a direct and very personal connection between you and the victim. This is quite different from any other memorial in Washington DC, namely because this memorializes the fewest number of people (most others are war memorials) killed in probably the most tragic way one can imagine.
(photos by me)