National September 11 Memorial Museum / Davis Brody Bond

WTC Memorial & Museum © Joe Woolhead

To honor the memory of those who tragically lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, New York-based Davis Brody Bond has been commissioned to design the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the heart of the former World Trade Center site in New York. Serving as a complement to the National September 11 Memorial, the museum will tell the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental artifacts, while commemorating the life of every victim of the 2001 and 1993 terrorists attacks.

Continue after the break to learn more.

Rather than treating the museum as an “icon containing exhibits”, Davis Brody Bond (DBB) has designed a structure that is made up of a “series of icons, which are the exhibit”. As visitors embark on their journey through the 125,000 square foot, subterranean museum, their experience is broken up into four primary components.

In Memoriam: A Memorial Exhibition © Thinc Design with Local Projects

The first is entrance and orientation. Visitors will pass through the Snohetta-designed Museum Pavilion, whose large atrium provides ample amounts of natural light into depths of the museum while displaying two structural columns rescued from the original towers. The visitors will then descend into the first, below-grade level of the Memorial Hall, transitioning their senses from the bright and active life of the plaza to the quieter, more contemplative environment of the museum.

National September 11 Museum Entry Pavilion / Snohetta © Wally Gobetz

The procession continues through introductory exhibits positioned along a gradually sloped path. The surface is described as a “meandering ribbon”, whose gentle slope guides the visitor down “as if drawn by gravity”. At key points along this route there are carefully composed views and overlooks into the space beyond, revealing key artifacts and historic resources. At this point the vast scale of the site becomes clear.

South Tower View © Davis Brody Bond

Once visitors reach the last viewing platform, they will descend the final stretch of the path to the ‘bedrock’ level, known as the West Chamber, which contains the foundations of the original World Trade Center. Here, the visitor will arrive at the third stage of his/her experience. At this lowest level of the museum and WTC complex, the original column bases and concrete footings that supported the twin towers are exposed in the floor slab of the museum, defining a clear outline of the former towers. A surviving retaining wall or the original WTC, known as the “slurry wall”, is exposed and serves as a backdrop for the 36-foot “Last Column” - the final piece of steel structure that was removed from Ground Zero, whose surfaces had been gradually covered with moving written testaments and photos during the rescue and recovery effort.

Museum Section © Davis Brody Bond and Snøhetta

The fourth and final stage of the visitor’s experience is a gradual ascent by escalator from ‘bedrock’ back to Memorial Hall, framing controlled views out to the aluminum-clad tower volumes. Arrival in Memorial Hall is followed by a walk back up to the plaza, the memorial fountains and the active life of the city.

West Chamber with Last Column © Davis Brody Bond

With an expected six million visitors per year, security, sustainability and operational efficiency are important components of the design. The Memorial, which was opened on September 11, 2011, and the Museum are designed achieve a LEED Gold rating. The project is also required to meet site specific New York State Executive Order 111 Sustainable Design Guidelines. Design initiatives include reduction in potable water use, increased ventilation, specification of low emitting materials, enhanced commissioning and refrigerant management. The project seeks innovation credits to provide 100% shading of non-pervious surface after five years through extensive tree planting and to design the building to educate visitors on the benefits of green buildings through displays and public programs.

WTC Overview © Joe Woolhead

DBB has worked closely with the Museum staff, their consultants and exhibition designers to ensure an integrated design. Unfortunately, a funding dispute between the memorial foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has temporarily delayed construction. However, completion is expected by 2013.

In the video above, filmed at the 2012 AIA Convention, DBB partner and New York City resident Steven Davis shares his personal experience with both the 2001 and 1993 WTC terrorist attacks, along with story and ideas behind the Memorial Museum.

Reference: Davis Brody Bond

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Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "National September 11 Memorial Museum / Davis Brody Bond" 11 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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