National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion at New York’s World Trade Center opens

On May 15, 2014, President Obama was present for the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Museum & Pavilion at the World Trade Center site in New York. The Pavilion and Museum opened to the public for the first time on May 21, 2014.

In 2004, SNØHETTA, along with associate architect Adamson Associates, was commissioned to design the only building on the memorial plaza. In the years since, the program has changed several times, however it has remained a cultural facility dedicated to visitor comfort and orientation. The design for the building embodies a careful reaction to the horizontal character of the memorial plaza’s design, while also providing the area with a lively organic form that allows the visitor to imagine the site and city in a broader sense.

The Museum Pavilion serves as the entrance to the Memorial Museum and sits at the heart of the World Trade Center revitalization. The program includes ticketing and main entrance to the museum, security screening, auditorium, and family room. The Museum Pavilion is the primary structure above ground at the Memorial site, serving to guide foot traffic and to provide a visual point of reference within a large area surrounded by several high towers. Its low horizontal form can be seen easily from all directions and provides a sense of intimacy in an otherwise overwhelming urban space. Its materials and gestures are designed to create a transitional architectural link between the urban surroundings and the Memorial grounds, similar to the unifying architectural features of many other parks and squares in Manhattan. 

The exterior of the building is clad primarily in metal that is composed of a simple striated mosaic of varying reflective surfaces, the subtle design of which is reminiscent of the façade of the former World Trade Center towers. The atrium is printed with a soft silvery pattern, providing both fluidity and a graceful integration between the two different materials and places. Through the changing reflections of the new Pavilion’s exterior, the design is suggestive of the ephemeral character of the former towers.

A significant aspect of the Pavilion’s identity is formed around a large glazed atrium situated over the Museum’s Memorial Hall and near the centre of the Memorial Plaza. The atrium allows visitors to see into the Museum where two large steel tridents, authentic structural elements recovered from the former towers, are on display. The two tridents create an immediate visual reference to the Twin Towers.

According to SNØHETTA principal Craig Dykers, “Our desire is to allow visitors to find a place that is a naturally occurring threshold between the everyday life of the city and the uniquely spiritual quality of the Memorial. It is important that people physically engage with the building and feel that it helps lead them on to other areas of the site and other thoughts about their experiences there.”

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