9/11 Memorial Museum to Open May 21

The 9/11 Memorial Museum, designed by Davis Brody Bond, opens May 21 beneath the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. The 110,000-sq.-ft. space will house artifacts and exhibition space paying tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as those who died in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Design study for Foundation Hall featuring the Last Column. Credit: Red Square Design

At the outset, Davis Brody Bond was tasked with creating a space that respectfully presented and served the history and memories of the events of 9/11. "The architects of the museum had to respond to a challenging set of physical conditions and preservation mandates," Alice Greenwald, director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, said in a statement. "But, even more importantly, they also had to consider the sanctity of the site, which required an extraordinary understanding of how authenticity of place could impact visitors' emotions."

A pathway known as "the Ribbon" starts at the entry pavilion designed by Snohetta and descends 70 feet to the original foundations of the World Trade Center towers. The Ribbon, which recalls the ramp used to remove debris from the site after the attacks, offers views of the original retaining wall that survived the collapse of the towers, as well as sheared base columns from the buildings.

South Tower with box beam columns. Credit: Red Square Designs

The path continues down the Vesey Street stairs, or "Survivors' Stairs," used by hundreds of survivors to safely escape. Here, two exhibitions at the bedrock level are situated on the footprints of the twin towers, directly below the Memorial Plaza's reflecting pools. The North Tower area will feature a historical exhibit, while the South Tower footprint houses a memorial exhibition, education center, and excavation of the original structure. Thinc Design with Local Projects, LLC served as the lead exhibition designers, while Layman Design was responsible for the historical exhibition.

The museum's culminating space is the Foundation Hall, "whose sheer scale conveys the enormity of the site and reinforces awareness of the absence of what was once there," according to a statement on the project.

Design study of historical exhibition display featuring Engine 21. Credit: Layman Design, rendered by Squared Design Lab

Using concrete, aluminum, and wood, Davis Brody Bond created an environment that "evokes both the raw character of the site and the period of recovery, yet also provides tactile elements that are familiar and comfortable to the visitor."

"The historic importance of the site and its symbolism made it essential for us to find a balance between the collective and the individual experience," said Steven Davis, FAIA, of Davis Brody Bond. "We relied on four principles to guide our work: memory, authenticity, scale, and emotion, hoping to provide the most sensitive, respectful, and informative experience for visitors."

Memorial Exhibition 1. Credit: Thinc Design with Local Projects

From May 15-20, a dedication period is planned for 9/11 families, rescue and recovery workers, active-duty first responders from agencies that lost members in the 9/11 attacks, survivors, and lower Manhattan residents and business owners. The Museum opens to the general public on May 21.