UW News

April 4, 2002

Students design Sept. 11 memorials for campus

Many UW students are probably trying to forget the images of Sept. 11, but two dozen students spent a large chunk of their winter quarter creating proposed memorials of the terrorist attacks for the UW campus.

Lacking funding or approval to build a full-sized, permanent memorial, the student creations remain tabletop models — viewable through the end of the month in Kane Hall. But there is talk among some faculty, staff, administrators and students that a lasting campus memorial might be an appropriate thing to have.

“A university is a place to discuss issues and not to duck our heads,” said one of the advocates, Daniel Winterbottom, associate professor of landscape architecture and an instructor in the winter public-art studio. “Campuses should be places of reflection; in fact, the best universities ask you to reflect.”

Winterbottom was joined in teaching the studio by John Young, professor of art, and Jim Nicholls, a lecturer in architecture and industrial design. The course is part of the UW’s interdisciplinary new Public Art Program.

The studio began with a close study of memorials and funeral rites around the world. This was followed by intensive development of concepts, site selection and design. Students even tested their ideas by erecting “no scar” temporary installations on potential sites.

Models of the final proposals — to be displayed in the Kane Hall second-floor lobby beginning Friday — feature fountains of “tears,” paths of glass etched with healing phrases, memorial tree groves, pinpoint lights shining from the ground and even a brutal gash in the earth (which gradually would heal).

One sandstone grotto proposed for a corner of the HUB lawn encompasses four sections, to represent the Twin Towers, Pentagon, rescuers and passengers of the doomed airplanes. A

Sept. 11 memorial plaza proposed for near the Henry Art Gallery features a floor of black granite reminiscent of the World Trade Towers’ shadow.

“When I saw these students’ concepts, I was just blown away,” said Roberta Hopkins, director of Classroom Support Services. “They’re all different, but they all convey a feeling of connection, of what it is to have a place of remembrance.”

Hopkins was one of the originators of the movement to build a campus memorial, spurred by her reaction to the moment of silence that was organized shortly after students and faculty returned for fall quarter.

“Many people ended up in Red Square,” she said. “I didn’t find that that place gave me any sense of peace, so I went somewhere with more grass and trees.”

As part of the planning that also led to an Oct. 11 Day of Reflection and Engagement and a fall quarter Open Classroom lecture series on the Middle East, talk bubbled among several students, administrators, staff and faculty about a permanent campus place for reflection — not necessarily confined to memorializing the victims of Sept. 11.

Winterbottom, who sometimes designs “healing gardens” for medical clinics, said a campus space for reflection might offer a connection to nature and serve as a place that encourages people to talk about and reflect on their lives.

Hopkins said she was thrilled to see the intense involvement of so many talented public-art students, and she called that a success in itself. An avid gardener and aficionado of the UW’s unique landscape, Hopkins said it would be wonderful if the student project provoked such a groundswell of interest that, someday, a place for remembrance would grace the University.