Sep 11, 2010

"Postcards" Will Be Staten Island September 11 Memorial

From Wired New York and COASHI (2004)

Masayuki Sono's Poetic Proposal

Architect Masayuki Sono always has postcards in his apartment. Some are sent to friends and family. He writes on others and keeps them. When he wants to make a model, he grabs a postcard. Unlike many young designers, the 32 year-old Sono works out his forms by hand rather than on a computer. Sketches may come first, but his early design process depends on hand-built models. At the public forum on the Memorial Competition designs, Sono held a small one on his palm, turning it to illustrate his points.

Sono was born in Kobe, a seaport in Japan. For the Staten Island September 11 Memorial, he thought back to the ten years he spent as a boy in Fort Lee, New Jersey. His father worked in Manhattan. He imagined losing him as others lost those they loved on September 11. Through this "painful and scary" process of trying to place himself "in their shoes," he focused on the victims and their families, and what they would want.

Sono then made sketches and began to test his concepts by building models, models of "even the most stupid idea." He wanted to somehow connect the victims to those left behind. In a serendipitous moment, he realized that the postcard in his hands was more than model-making material. It was a way to send messages of love and remembrance.

Even in the era of cell phones and e-mail, the postcard continues to be a handwritten communication sent across great distances. Sono liked that it was a commonplace part of daily life. He multiplied its dimensions by 267 to convey the scale of the loss for Staten Island, then gave the postcard origami-like inward folds (as if to keep a personal message private). Sono chose to be abstract and metaphoric rather than literal in his design, to allow each person who experiences it to call on their own memories and interpretation. Twin postcards can be seen as a reference to the twin towers. He placed the postcards side by side, close together at the entrance to form a compressive space. The space widens and releases towards the harbor and the open sky. A view of lower Manhattan is framed by the high walls. He softly bent the upper edges at an angle, transforming simple rectangles into abstractly organic forms in which some see wings of a dove or biomorphic shapes.

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