Meaningful adjacencies

June 20th, 2011

Artist/designer Jer Thorpe on designing the list of names on the 9/11 Memorial:

In late October, 2009, I received an e-mail from Jake Barton from Local Projects, titled plainly 'Potential Freelance Job'. I read the e-mail, and responded with a reply in two parts: First, I would love to work on the project. Second, I wasn't sure that it could be done.

The project was to design an algorithm for placement of names on the 9/11 memorial in New York City. In architect Michael Arad's vision for the memorial, the names were to be laid according to where people were and who they were with when they died – not alphabetical, nor placed in a grid. Inscribed in bronze parapets, almost three thousand names would stream seamlessly around the memorial pools. Underneath this river of names, though, an arrangement would provide a meaningful framework; one which allows the names of family and friends to exist together. Victims would be linked through what Arad terms 'meaningful adjacencies' – connections that would reflect friendships, family bonds, and acts of heroism. through these connections, the memorial becomes a permanent embodiment of not only the many individual victims, but also of the relationships that were part of their lives before those tragic events. […]

Reading the article, I found myself wondering whether it wouldn't be simpler to just say 'to hell with it' and list the names alphabetically in a simple, multi-column layout. It speaks volumes for Jer Thorpe's professionalism that at no point in his post does he so much as hint that any such thought had ever speculated about the possibility of crossing his mind.

[Via Links]

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