Is the New Pentagon Memorial Too Fixated on Numbers?


While we’ve all been wrapped up with the trouble over the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania and the slow progress of the new World Trade Center site, designers Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman seem to have quietly rolled out their work on the now-completed Pentagon Memorial two weeks ago. Unfortunately, Slate critic Witold Rybczynski thinks the memorial misses the mark. Described as 184 individual markers (or “memorial units”) arranged by order of age of the victims, with an accompanying wall that rises and falls using their ages as well, as well as numerous other filters used to specify who these people were and where they were when they died, Rybczynski finds the whole thing too statistical and more like one big graveyard, instead of having something to say about what happened there. He also doesn’t believe that the memorial was built well at all:

The evening I was there, although the memorial was barely two weeks old, a crew of maintenance workers was painstakingly removing stones and debris that had made their way into the pools — most of the walking surfaces are composed of loose gravel. Memorials are traditionally made out of granite, marble, or bronze, not only to last “forever,” but also to convey a sense of perpetuity. On that score, the Pentagon Memorial seems more like an art installation than a monument for the ages.