There’s been a grand opening, and more than six million visitors have visited, but the 9/11 Memorial site in lower Manhattan is still very much a work in progress. Landscape architect Peter Walker, co-designer of the project, estimates that after 10 years on the job, his vision is only halfway realized. More acres of the plaza need to be built and that can’t happen until the underground museum and train station are finished, as well as the surrounding streets.
Despite being unfinished, the memorial is open, and people have been coming from all over the world to pay their respects. Crowds are hustled through the maze-like barriers of this construction site before reaching its heart: the solemn memorial of two meaningful voids in the ground. Eventually, though, the experience will be completely different.
The finished product will be a memorial plus an open public space. Eight carefully planned acres that will ultimately be a contemplative and restful place, transformed by a lush forest of more than 400 swamp white oak trees. It will be one of the most sustainable plazas ever constructed. This part of the project will conclude years from now, quietly and without as much pomp and fanfare. But for generations to come, this park will ultimately be an important and reverent part of the experience.