Spaces

By September 11, 2020 architecture, Life

My first studio professor, in describing an assignment, said he wanted us to understand how one feels moving through a space. He couldn’t tell us how to build that space, just that we were supposed to create it. Looking back, no wonder I finished my degree elsewhere.

However, being an architect does make you acutely aware of space. And if you’ve been reading this blog, you can’t help but notice how often space plays into what’s being written, whether I’m talking about funky hotel rooms, French Quarter restrooms, or integrating your pet into your project.

Well – this is another one of those blogs, except on a more somber note.

Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how space relates to those events. Particularly from my view as an architect.

I was in my cubicle at my first job when someone called to let us know what was happening. And soon went from that very open space to huddled in a small conference room with several others, watching a crappy TV, and trying to figure out what was really happening.

Then the eventual trip home through an eerily quiet downtown Dallas. What should have been a bustling space was deserted, everyone having evacuated their office buildings. Empty streets to go with the empty skies and an increasing sense of the gravity of what was unfolding.

New York City, 2013

Finally, in a safe space at home, sitting on the sofa and watching Peter Jennings talk about what had happened and what the attacks meant or might mean for the future.

And acutely aware of space. Or in the case of the Twin Towers, what had been removed from our visual space. After decades of seeing them as part of the New York skyline, there was now a void. Iconic architecture – not just from an architecture perspective, but from an urban fabric perspective – reduced to rubble and dust.

Little did I know that at the Pentagon, a friend’s stepmother had escaped harm in a conference room. Created as a space for secure meetings, the room (and a security detail) provided her safety from what was another plane. And only later would we find out about the field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 would leave its mark.

Yet from the tragedy of 9/11, we have created new experiences and new spaces, from the rebuilt Pentagon to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum where the Twin Towers once stood.

On a trip to New York in 2013, James and I walked around the memorial pools, One World Trade Center still under construction in the background. New elements to occupy the visual space left vacant in New York’s skyline and to remind us what we had lost.

Who knew my professor was on to something, and that all these years later, I’d find myself talking so much about space. And it’s importance in a time of tragedy and triumph long after that first class.

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