On Monday, March 11, six months after the terrorist attacks that resulted in the collapse of New York's World Trade Center (WTC), its Twin Towers will rise again - only this time as ephemeral columns of light. Each night from dusk until 11 p.m. through April 13, two banks each comprising 44 searchlights will shoot beams of light skyward into the Lower Manhattan night from a location in Battery Park City near Ground Zero, evoking the image of the 110-story towers.
The lights from the two 50-sq.-ft. banks may be shut off at times: on nights when cloud cover might cause reflections into neighboring apartments, and if requested by the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid interference with helicopter traffic, or the New York Audubon Society, to ensure the safety of indigenous birds.
An idea formed separately by five architects and artists, the 'Tribute in Light' will honor the more than 6,000 victims of the attacks. The project's creators included Richard Nash Gould, principal of the interior architecture firm of Richard Nash Gould Architects, New York; John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi of Proun Space Studio, Manhattan, an architectural computer modeling company; and Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, artists who had worked on the 91st floor of the WTC, but survived Sept. 11. The local Municipal Arts Society (MAS) is the memorial's principal organizer.
Gould says that he discussed the possibility of a memorial involving lights with the chairman of the MAS on the night following the trade center collapse. 'I live 15 blocks north of where the trade center once stood, and I watched it go down,' Gould says. 'It always had lights on. The night after the collapse there were no lights, only this darkness. We said, 'We've got to put the lights back on.''
The memorial will be joined in Battery Park by 'The Sphere,' a 5,000-pound, 15-diameter steel-and-bronze sculpture that once stood in the fountain of the trade center plaza. Though it survived the collapse of the trade center, the sculpture was gashed and partially crushed by the falling debris. New Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will switch on the light memorial on Monday, said that the sculpture probably would serve as the centerpiece for a permanent memorial, upon which plans have yet to be decided.
The Tribute in Light memorial, whose installation will cost about $500,000, was produced and funded by a mixture of arts organizations and the private sector. Financing for the project, which has been in development since shortly after Sept. 11, is a combination of individual donations, foundations, civic groups and corporations, including Deutsche Bank, AOL Time Warner and General Electric. Consolidated Edison is donating the estimated $10,000 worth of power for the duration of the display.
Photo: Charles Nesbit. Concept: John Bennett, Gustavo Bonevardi, Richard Nash Gould, Julian Laverdiere, Paul Marantz, Paul Myoda. q The Municipal Art Society