Leaving Absence: 9/11 Memorial Designed by a DC 37 Member

Michael Arad presents his design on Jan. 14, 2004 for the World Trade Center Memorial.

Michael Arad presents his design on Jan. 14, 2004 for the World Trade Center Memorial.


When you visit Leaving Absence, the memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, you are struck by its expression of poignancy and an overwhelming sense of creating a place for contemplation and healing.

The memorial rests at the footprint of where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. It memorializes the nearly 3,000 innocent lives lost on that late summer day in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The memorial was designed by DC 37 member Michael Arad. He won a design competition in early 2004 to create the expansive memorial, which took eight years to complete, and was dedicated in 2011.

Arad faced steep competition for his project design, which he began sketching in the first weeks following the 9/11 attacks. His winning entry was one of 5,201 design submissions from around the world.

At the time his design won, Arad was a young, Israeli-American architect and Local 375 member who had begun working at the New York City Housing Authority’s design team in April 2003. During his employment with the City, Arad worked on two projects: the headquarters of Police Service Area 8 in Throgs Neck in the Bronx and at Brooklyn’s PSA 2.

At the ceremony announcing Leaving Absence, Arad said. “It is a very difficult task I’ve been entrusted with. I understand just how important this is. I will do my very best not to disappoint the families of the victims.”

In the course of constructing Leaving Absence, the monument’s design was modified, including elements to add more impact. Priority was placed on wishes of the survivors of those slain in the attacks such as the placement of certain names.

Discussing his work in a recent feature in Architectural Digest Arad said that 20 years after 9/11, he now sees his creation differently. Time has allowed him to “experience it on an emotional level,” he said.

“Time is a form of distance,” Arad said. “With time, you get a different perspective.”

Click here to see the a video of the memorial, with an extensive interview with Michael Arad.

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