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United 93 Memorial Grounds Acquired

United 93 Memorial Grounds Acquired

In late January, the largest and last of the major memorials to September 11, 2001 moved forward when the Bush administration, in one of its final acts, helped negotiate the acquisition of 274 acres of land in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The property lies at the core of a memorial park that will commemorate the lives of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 who perished on 9/11. The agreement clears the way for the first phase of the planned memorial, park, and visitor’s center, designed by Beverly Hills, California–based Paul Murdoch Architects, to open in time for the tenth anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

The acquisition of the 274-acre parcel, which links the crash site to a nearby highway, was announced on January 20 by the National Park Service, the Families of Flight 93, and Svonavec, a major local landowner and the remaining holdout. The memorial park will total over 2,200 acres, protecting the impact site, the surrounding landscape, and view corridors from development. Bowl-like contours shape the central portion of the landscape, and became a defining feature for the memorial. “Paul [Murdoch] understood that this bowl is what the memorial should be,” John Reynold, chair of the Flight 93 advisory committee, said of the competition-winning design.

The memorial includes an entry portal opening onto the bowl with a wildflower-planted “sacred ground.” Groves of native trees and a bell tower will create a spatial and sensory experience around the memorial site, which remains defined by the land itself. “As architects, we realized that if we tried to create a heroic monument, it would have been dwarfed by the landscape,” Murdoch said.

Since the project is so large, Murdoch has been studying how the park might function over the long term, to prevent it from becoming a static place in the future—a consideration that was not part of the initial competition brief. “There will be trails and potentially other uses at the edge of the park,” Murdoch said. “We are considering what activities may be appropriate and what might be less so.” A visitor’s center, which was also added to the program, will be built in a second phase, along with sweeping, 40-foot-high concrete walls that represent the plane’s altitude and flight path as it passed overhead. Future phases are to include the 93-foot-tall tower, trails, and reforestation efforts that will connect the site to surrounding natural areas.

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