The winning design for the Pentagon 9/11 memorial competition by Julie Beckman '95 and
Keith Kaseman uses visual and spatial layers to tell the story of what happened that day.


Julie Beckman '95 crossed Fifth Avenue on the morning of September 11, 2001, and witnessed a huge fireball erupt from the South Tower as the jet struck it.

Now Beckman, an architectural designer, will help the world remember the hundreds of individual lives connected through that day's incomprehensible events.

She and her partner Keith Kaseman have won the design competition sponsored by the United States Department of Defense for a memorial honoring those who died in the 9/11/01 Pentagon attack. Their memorial will be built 165 feet from the Pentagon wall where the hijacked plane crashed. Rows of illuminated benches angled along the plane's flight path will be visible at night, from the road to the Pentagon and from flights passing near it. During the day, sunlight and artificial light will reflect from pools of water and from the benches' undersides.

The competition attracted 1,126 entries from all over the world. An 11-member jury-two victims' family members, two former defense secretaries, two artists, two architects, a dean of architecture, and the wife of a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-chose six finalists in October 2002. On March 3, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced in a press conference that the jury voted unanimously for Beckman and Kaseman's memorial.

A space like no other
Inspired by 9/11's jolting and "tragic reality that just didn't seem real," Beckman says she and Kaseman created for the memorial a space radically different than what most people encounter in their daily lives. "We wanted this place to be like no other, because that day, 9/11/01, was like no other day," she says. "We hoped to inscribe in the earth the magnitude of what happened there that day, and in that inscription, we wanted to tell a story of who these individuals were. We wanted to invite personal interpretation, not tell the visitor what to think or how to feel."

Their memorial devotes a unique place to each victim, "where family or friends of the victims can go and be near something that honors their loved one." These cast aluminum memorial units are each comprised of a bench cantilevered over a glowing water pool, bearing the engraved name of one of the 184 victims. The memorial units represent a timeline of the victims' ages, spanning from Dana Falkenberg, 3 years old, to John D. Yamnicky, 71.

Fifty-nine memorial units face one way, and 125 face the other, to distinguish respectively victims on board American Airlines flight 77 from those inside the Pentagon. "When visiting a unit dedicated to a victim who was in the Pentagon, the visitor will see their engraved name and the Pentagon in the same view," Beckman says. "Conversely, one will see the engraved name of a victim on flight 77 with the sky." These visual and spatial layers provoke curiosity and tell the story of those involved in the events that took place that day, she says.

Trees are an integral feature, with 67 maples providing a consistent level of shade over the units. Maples are late-falling in Washington, explains Beckman, so their foliage lasts well into the winter. "This suspension of time will contribute to the sublime beauty of this place," she says.

Personal evolution
Entering the competition helped Beckman and Kaseman cope with the events of 9/11. "I felt and sensed the broken heart of the city and its people," she says. "My heart was broken for a long time after that day. I just kept saying to myself, 'These people were just going to work-just like you and me.'

"I think that's why our memorial focuses on the individuals that were killed that day at the Pentagon. They were unique individuals who were brought together and frozen in time at that place," she says.

The competition also allowed Beckman and Kaseman to work together on a project for the first time. They met in Columbia in the Masters of Architecture program, graduated in 2001, and have since formed a partnership, KBAS.

The pair worked on and off for about a month on their memorial, mostly talking and sketching together at their local Italian restaurant. They put in several late nights after work and one nonstop weekend as the deadline approached.

A $20,000 stipend given to each of the six finalists allowed them to produce a "Grade A presentation," Beckman says. They commissioned a prototype of the memorial [unit], 1/12th actual size, using computer milled CNC technology and cast of aluminum.

Beckmans' love for architecture blossomed at Bryn Mawr. "I knew I would continue in architecture when I found myself prospering in Rockefeller Studio, spending endless hours designing, among other things, a cardboard chair that still sits in my mother's living room!

"The Growth and Structure of Cities major provided me with a solid foundation of architectural history, design, fine art, and urban studies-all of which I would further study in graduate school," Beckman says. "I will always appreciate Gary McDonogh, Barbara Lane, Daniela Holt Voith '75, Sam Olshin and the rest of the Cities faculty for their unique teaching styles, a wealth of knowledge, and interesting and challenging subjects of study."

Since Bryn Mawr, Beckman has worked for small- and medium-sized firms in Brooklyn and in Westchester County NY on a variety of projects: non-profit facilities such as shelters or YMCAs, low-income housing, and parking garages, to name a few. Her focus now will be on pursuing projects through KBAS.

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