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For Pentagon, a Memorial 'Like No Other'
Panel Picks Design Featuring Lighted Benches, Trees

Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Those who died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, are to be honored with a tree-shaded, two-acre memorial featuring 184 illuminated benches -- one for each victim -- erected not far from where a hijacked jet slammed into the building, ending their lives.

The winning design, by two New York architects, was announced yesterday and is to be built near the west face of the Pentagon, less than 200 feet from where terrorists deliberately crashed American Airlines Flight 77.

"This place had to be like no other place," said Julie Beckman, 30, co-designer of the winning entry. "The memorial had to be like no other memorial, because September 11 was like no other day."

Each of the benches -- cantilevered, cast aluminum structures -- will be set above its own reflecting pool of water, which will be lit from underneath and will reflect light and ripples. About 70 maple trees will be interspersed among the benches, creating a "canopy of light and shade and shadow," said Keith Kaseman, 31, the other designer.

For visitors sitting on the benches, or commuters catching glimpses from the highway, or passengers on jets flying into Washington, the overall effect will be striking, said Terry Riley, chief curator of design and architecture at New York's Museum of Modern Art, who was chairman of the jury that selected the winning design.

Riley said the 11-member panel, which included relatives of some of the dead and two former secretaries of defense, was impressed by the "solemnity of the design" and the way the 184 victims will be remembered as individual lives.

Each bench will be engraved with a victim's name. The benches will be positioned in a pattern that follows the flight path of the hijacked jet and will be arranged according to the ages of the victims -- from the youngest, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, to the oldest, 71-year-old John Yamnicky.

Family members who participated in the selection described the memorial as peaceful and inviting.

"This isn't meant to be a cemetery," said Stephanie Dunn, who was three months pregnant when her husband, Navy Cmdr. Patrick Dunn, was killed in the attack. Yesterday, she said she looked forward to bringing her daughter, Alexandria Patricia, to the memorial.

"I want her to remember her father in a happy way," Dunn said. "She'll have a place to go that will let her know it wasn't just Daddy who died."

Wendy Chamberlain, whose father and stepmother perished on the hijacked jetliner, said the design "really satisfied the need of the families for a place of comfort . . . but also the need of the nation."

But according to members of the selection jury, not all relatives of the victims were pleased with the design, with some complaining that the two-acre park will be too casual for a memorial.

"Some people thought, 'How can you sit on a bench?' " said James Laychak, a juror whose brother, David Laychak, a civilian Army budget analyst, was among those killed. That view was a minority one, Laychak added. "I can see myself going and sitting on my brother's bench, or another person's bench, and paying my respects.

"The thing I like about it was that it's a collective memorial, and an individual memorial, yet it told the story of what happened that day," Laychak added.

Despite heightened security at the Pentagon and the memorial's proximity to the building, it will be accessible to the public via the Pentagon Metro station and from nearby parking lots, officials said.

The site is occupied by construction trailers and equipment involved in the Pentagon renovation. Officials plan to award a contract for building the memorial in May and break ground a month later, according to Michael Sullivan, manager for the Pentagon renovation program, which will oversee the construction. It is to be completed by Sept. 11, 2004.

The memorial, estimated to cost $ 4.9 million to $ 7.4 million, will be paid for by private contributions. About $ 40,000 has been raised, and family members may hold a fundraiser, according to Richard McGraw, the Pentagon official overseeing the memorial. McGraw said he expects no difficulty raising enough money. The Pentagon also intends to ask Congress to earmark some money out of $ 13 million of leftover funds donated by various nations to pay for the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, McGraw said.

The jury selected the Kaseman Beckman design unanimously after what Riley called a spirited six-hour deliberation last month. The choice was approved by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The design was one of more than 1,100 entries received from around the world. A competition jury, working with comments from family members, narrowed the pool to six finalists.

Beckman and Kaseman, who met on their first day as graduate students in architecture at Columbia University, founded their firm, Kaseman Beckman Architectural Strategies, in 2001. They said they were encouraged to enter the contest knowing that the proposals would be reviewed on a "blind basis," meaning that the jury did not know whether a design was from a famous firm or a new one like Kaseman Beckman.

"When you run it anonymously, it gives everyone a chance, not just rock star designers," Beckman said.

After they were selected as finalists, they met with families and refined their proposal.

"We wanted to create a place that is welcoming to family members and friends," Beckman said. "It's a place where two people can be, or thousands can be."

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