World Trade Center 9-11 Memorial Competition

2003 – World Trade Center 9-11 Memorial Submission

Wings of Transcendent Spirit:

Wings of Transcendent Spirit – Christopher Belknap, Architect – Karl Janssen & Ron Wood – Architectural Glass Artists

The Wings of Transcendent Spirit –  submittal to the World Trade Center 9-11 Memorial Competition was one of over 5,000 presentations received.      This entry was envisioned and developed by Architect – Christopher Belknap, in collaboration with Architectural Glass Artists – Christian Karl Janssen & Ron Wood.   Though this entry was not selected, it stands as peak design experience for each of us that collaborated on the submittal because the complexity issues we considered in responding to the collective loss of the events on 9-11, and because of the positive vision of hope that we attempted to convey in memory to those who lost their lives in the heroic response to the events on 9-11.

The World Trade Center Memorial Mission Statement:

  • Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.
  • Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss.
  • Recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours.
  •  May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.


Remember, honor and contemplate all life in the times we live, in the aftermath of events so destructive, violent and sorrowful as those of September 11, 2001.  May we rise above the tragedy, to unite in a renewed vision of hope for humanity. May we remember the heroism and sacrifice of so many who gave of themselves on this day, and also on February 26,1993, so that others might live. Remember always and honor the truth that there is, an essence in spirit that exists in each life, that will transcend time and space, and it will be seen in time, is a guiding visionary light to us all. Remember the lives of so many Americans, and also those from many other countries around the World Community, whose lives were cut short at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania…in an attack meant to strike fear, divide and make separate the World Community.

WTC Mermoria full Presentation Panel
Note: Click on Presentation Panels & close up sections to expand.


Remember also that these events took place at the dawn of a new Millennium, one of great hope and possibility. It is worth considering, that in all that has occurred out of conflict in human history, in the aftermath of conflict there has as always been renewed commitment that has brought humanity together. The last century filled with so much conflict inevitably thrust human evolution forward and brought humanity together in greater circles of cooperation. It is clear that this Century will require an all together new level of cooperation and vision amongst all people and nations, that will bring a true security, along with fundamental principles of human rights to people throughout the world. The remembrance of this memorial site, made scared by heroic sacrifice, is a transcendent guiding light to us all to transcend all fear and the forces of separation, and to rise to an altogether new level of integrity on Earth based on fundamental principles of human rights, and respect for all life. This call will challenge us all, and a new paradigm of living will emerge if we are to succeed. Solutions will lie outside of the existing paradigm, and can only be achieve through creative and cooperative visionary action.

It is our vision, that in rebuilding the World Trade Center, and in dedicating The World Trade Center Memorial, that the underlying symbolism in our submission will be a beacon for renewal and cooperation at an unprecedented level of visionary creative action. These actions will address the underlying core issues, which could have ever provided a context for such a terrorist action. A challenge of this nature must be met with light and compassion for all, and a level of integrity that will leave no one behind.

Wings of Transcendence- A Lasting and Evolving Legacy: Each layer of the follow memorial submission will consistently reinforce an undeniable unity of spirit, the essence of us all even if we are in complete denial of this truth. In the ever-evolving vision and progression of the human societal evolution, it will ask us all to contemplate deeply underlying principles of freedom and human rights, that are the basis of free people and how these principles can evolve at this moment in time. Finally this memorial provides the beginning of a structure of creative dialogue to achieve a vision of possibility for all humanity where “no one is left behind”. This in our view is our mission and response to the Mission Statement.

Beam of Transcendence: (Reference: Panel A & Section S-1) In a number of ways the Wings of Transcendence submittal to The World Trade Center Memorial will enhance themes brought forward by Daniel Libeskind in his design. In this case the soaring symbolism of the Tower that symbolizes The Declaration of Independence, at a height of 1776 feet. In Panel A an ethereal column of blue light, emanates from the roof of the Museum over The North Tower Foot Print. It is created by means of sixteen 10 kilowatt ‘Sky Beam’ light projectors. This “Beam of Transcendence”, signifying on the one hand the migration of the soul, and on the other the soaring flight of Liberty, and a unity of vision will rise effectively beyond, and in an elegant composition with the Tower to heights of 2000 to 6000 feet. The projection of this beam is one of the important consistent themes in this submittal. That Transcendent Spirit and light of 3022 souls is a guiding light to all of us who remain of their heroism and of a vision of possibility, which must come from the tragedy.

The Main Site Plan: Panel B is at a scale of 1:60’, and it locates most of the Key components of the Memorial. In describing each component other exhibits will be referenced from the presentation board. Most illustrative will be the aerial rendition above the Memorial Site. In this view each part of the memorial can be located.

Remnant: On the corner of West Street and Liberty Street, set on a knoll with a gently cascading reflecting pool at its base, the Remnant, a wedge shaped sculpture depicts, or is, a shard from the original World Trade Center Twin Towers facade. With its cathedral like quality, it has become a symbol and icon representing the violence and recovery from the assault on freedom. It will be visible from the surrounding towers, in the urban environment and approaching the WTC site. It symbolizes our resolve to rise from the ashes and to rededicate our energies to freedom and justice for all.

The Slurry Wall, Flags & the Principles of Freedom: We are now at one of the key entry points, the ramp descending into the site in front of the Slurry Wall, the only structure left standing in the site following the destruction. (Reference: Panels F,H & Section S-2) The Slurry Wall will forever be revealed, and represents the strength and resilience of Freedom against all assault. Our intention is to reinforce this symbol. This will be second important reinforcing of key elements of the Libeskind concept for the WTC. Here eight Translucent Glass Panels depicting the Stars and Stripes rise out of a long reflection pool. The reflections cross the water to the viewer’s position. The founding principles and documents of The United States are etched into the surface for all to read and contemplate upon entering the site. The field of Stars and Stripes are made of pigment and frit and fired into the glass panels in a process known as fire etchings. The huge flags will be formed of bent glass and transparent sash corresponding to design elements making the sash virtually disappear. Images are applied using serigraph techniques. The text is blastcarved into the color and superimposed upon the image. This contemplative experience is foundational to the memorial experience.

Wings of Transcendent Spirit: Now we turn to the central piece of our memorial submission, which will symbolize the eternal nature and evolutionary visionary force of the human spirit. (Reference: Panel A,B,D,E & Sequence Images I along with Section S-1) This spirit, which can never be harmed, is eternal and is fully unified with the transformational nature of the universe. These thoughts have been communicated throughout history, by many cultures and religious paths, by philosophers and prophets. The understanding of these principles is inherent in the founding principles of the United States. It is clear that all that is good comes from a spirit of unity that is universal. The heart, which opens and connects us all is the key to the ultimate expression of our evolution. We call this connection in all paths, societies and cultures Love. Striving for a spirit of unity we submit our vision for honoring the essence, unique soul vision, and indestructible spirit of each and every life lost in the events of 9-11-2001, and in the previous attack 2-26-1993 at the WTC. We honor their spiritual essence, and we are in awe of their unifying light that rose from their passing during the most challenging moments of their life on Earth, and their heroic actions which inspire us all, who live on to care for others, as they did in countless selfless acts of courage and compassion in the face of impending destruction.

Beam of Transcendence and Earth: The spiritual essence of 3,022 souls who passed on, as well as those who remain unidentified, will be represented on each of WTC Tower Foot Prints, North and South, individually by 1,511- Glass Spiral Blades-8’T – Wings of Transcendent Spirit, arranged in a series of gently descending spiral bed of water reflection pools towards a the central field –on the North Tower an eternal flame. This flame has three simultaneous meanings. It is at the same time a flame of remembrance of what happen in this place, an eternal flame to honor all those who find this their last resting place, and it is a flame of hope and peace. Rising from this flame a beam of light that will move through the overarching Museum into the sky 6,000’ as described before.

On the South Tower, in the center, the most detailed replica of the Earth from Space ever constructed will be placed. The full meaning of this symbol follows, but it acknowledges that our security is related to the whole of humanity, and that in the heart space opened up by the memorial in this century true security must come to all people, and all life on Earth. The remains of the unidentified will be place in a repository in the center of both fields of Wings of Transcendence. On the edge of the platforms will be etched in glass and up lit the names of each individual who perished. (Reference: Panel D) We suggest include with each name the following information: their age, citizenship; branch of public or military service, if they died in the act of responding to their public service duty.

Firmament: The following is an attempt to describe what the experience will be like entering the fields of transcendence and spending time in this space. 

If you ever looked up in the sky on a star filled night you have seen a firmament, an expanse of the heavens. Imagine the 1511 winged sculptures, surrounded by flowing glowing water, reflecting and sparkling, wings rising from the liquid lit from beneath in points of light, these works will look like a spiral galaxy.

The undulating surfaces face virtually every direction and will reflect each and every source of ambient light. A stationary light source will hit a multitude of sculptures, but in different locations and angles depending on individual relationships of location and direction. Then other sculptures will reflect and re-reflect the same light. The sculptures all offer the waters beneath them the least resistance and are thereby focused towards the centrifugal flame. As the viewers pass their individual reflections will travel across the surfaces, making them, momentarily, part of the work. The variance in elevation will offer the sight of other viewers and other sculptures through the transparent media. The surfaces of the sculptures will reflect the entire environment, including the waters, the other sculptures, the viewers, the adjacent architectural elements, and the changing skies.

The experience will be as varied as the conditions of light are varied.  Our Goal is to full convey the eternal nature of humanities truest self, and the unity of our collective creative spirit. We hope to move the visitor profoundly to an experience of the heart, and once again remember the sense of community we felt in the weeks immediately after 9-11, as we came together in expressions of common bond in throughout the United States and from people all over the World.

The Sanctuary for the Victims Families: (Reference:PanelB,F& S-1) Paced in a bosque of trees next to the South Tower Foot Print and field of Transcendence is the space dedicated to the family members of those who perished. This place is private and filled with subtle translucent light for private contemplation. From this space in private many elements of the memorial can be viewed.

The Plaza of Remembrance to the Heroes and Volunteers: The Plaza to the Heroes and Volunteers is across from The WTC North Tower footprint. It is along with the memorial to the heroes and volunteers it is a large space for public gathering and ceremonies, with space for more than 1000seated individuals. The plaza and surrounding spaces can accommodate many more. There is a space for projection.(Reference: Panel B,F,G & Section S-1)

Surrounding the Plaza is the Wall of Heroes and Volunteers. Here translucent glass panels bear images of the heroic moments that are etched in our minds. The images are taken from photography and abstracted via an optical manipulation process. The wall surrounds the Plaza and shields the Hall of Heroes. On the South Wall of the Plaza is the inscription giving thanks that is depicted on (Panel G).

Candles and the Peoples Memorial: In the Plaza of Heroes and Volunteers there will be the opportunity to place candles for those who wish to do so in the center of the space. There are other places in the memorial site which will offer similar opportunities. The light of these candles will be reflected in the surrounding fields of Wings of Transcendent Spirits. On special occasions a veritable firmament can be achieved by candle light promenades. The special meditation chamber for visiting members of victim’s families will also be a place where candles can be placed. The ledge of the reflection pool that fronts the Slurry Wall with the Row of Flags is another.

The Hall of Contemplation: Each part of the memorial leads to the final two layers and the ultimate vision of our submittal. (Reference: Panel C,F & S-3) These two components provide an opportunity of great meaning and purpose to each of the daily 8,000 to 50,000 estimated visitors to the WTC Memorial Site. Entering the portals to either side of the Wall of Heroes and Volunteers, the visitors will pass a series of exhibits (to be designed and which will evolve over time). They will ask all who enter to contemplate more deeply this moment in time. There will be exhibits, which depict the current state of our Planet, its health which we depend on, the state of human suffering and wellbeing. The visitors will be asked to consider what would bring real security to their communities and the world.

The Forum of Contemplation and Vision: Finally, or rather as a new beginning, each visitor will have the opportunity to enter a people’s forum, a circular space that will accommodate approximately 300 people, in and an ongoing dialogue guided by two facilitators. Visitors will be asked to express, from the heart, one or two of their contemplative thoughts from being at the Memorial Site, and in viewing the contemplative exhibits. They will have the opportunity to express their vision for their community in the world, their nation or the world as a whole, for what would need to be in place for, no one to be left behind.

This final layer of this memorial submission can expand into a broad commitment worldwide, where the fundamental issues that humanity will surely face in the next 50 years to reach a secure, sustainable, just and equitable existence for all people, will be creatively addressed. For if 9-11 were to tell us anything at all, it is that we are all in this together, and our creative strength will come from the heart, connected to all, leaving no one behind, as they did to the last moment. In Remembrance and out of Respect – May Vision and Action for Peace Prevail.

Design Earth Synergy – Catch the EARTH WAVE – for a Sustainable 21st Century

Align on a United Vision & Action Plan for a Sustainable

21st Century ……Clean Energy EARTH and World Community

…… the Year 2050