Amid the endless hand wringing about design and planning compromises and the pace of construction at the World Trade Center site, the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial on September 11 offered some solace. A simpler project by far, the Pentagon Memorial still took years longer to complete than expected. “When we got the commission, we took an 18 month lease in Alexandria, Virginia,” said Julie Beckman, one of the memorial’s designers, “but it ended up being a 66 month long project.” Fundraising for the memorial, all which came from private sources, proved challenging, but the architects believe the extra time improved project as built. “It was a blessing in disguise,” she said.
Beckman and her partner Keith Kaseman, who together run the Philadelphia-based firm KBAS, used the extra time for research and development. They had initially planned to use a single piece of anodized aluminum for each bench, or “memorial unit,” as they call them. After consulting metallurgical experts at Virginia Tech who questioned the long-term durability of aluminum, they opted for stainless steel above grade and pre-cast concrete below grade. They also tinkered with the gravel base, adding a bit of cement to the mixture, while leaving a thin layer of loose gravel on top. Six concrete paths were added to improve accessibility. Though the project took longer to complete than expected, the end result looks almost identical to their competition-winning design.
“I hope 9/11 families everywhere feel welcome to use the memorial for their thoughts and reflections,” Beckman said. For KBAS, the project has left an indelible mark on their practice. Said Beckman, “We want to keep working on projects that have a positive impact on their communities.”