The Pentagon Memorial commemorating the terrorist attack of September 11th, 2001, provides a long-awaited place for contemplation. Dedicated today and designed by Kaseman Beckman Advanced Strategies (KBAS), a Philadelphia-based architecture firm founded by Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman, the memorial is composed of 184 cantilevered benches—one for each victim who died that day. The memorial is located on the West Lawn of the Pentagon, adjacent to where the hijacked plane hit the building.
KBAS won an international competition for the commission in 2003. “The concept was about creating a place that’s truly like no other, simply because the day of September 11th was like no other day we had ever experienced,” says Beckman. “We really wanted to emphasize the individuals as well as the collective.”
Each of the cast stainless steel benches is engraved with the name of a victim on the tip of the cantilever. The units have granite seats and hover above their own small reflecting pools. At night, custom light fixtures buried at the edge of each pool illuminate the benches with a cool glow from below.
Collectively, these memorial units are set within a two-acre bed of granite gravel, and located along date lines according to each victim’s year of birth. The placement of the date lines is based on the trajectory of American Airlines Flight 77. “It starts to show the demographic of those who lost their lives that day,” says Beckman. “The concentration of benches is very thin in the younger and older ages, but very dense in the 40s and 50s.”
Additionally, the cantilever of each bench is oriented to reflect whether the victim was on the plane or in the Pentagon. When reading the name of someone who was on the plane, visitors will see the open sky beyond; when reading the name of someone who was in the Pentagon, visitors will see the building as a backdrop.
The memorial was built for $22 million, and the Pentagon Memorial Fund plans to raise an additional $10 million to provide a lifetime endowment for maintenance. The memorial will remain open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.