Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2015

Thea Award - Extraordinary Cultural Achievement

National September 11 Memorial Museum, New York City, USA

September 11, 2001 was unquestionably one of the most significant events in the history of the United States and the world. The cataclysm and loss resulting from the actions of that day continue to impact our lives today and resonate throughout virtually every aspect of international economy, culture, religion and politics. Creation of a Memorial Museum that would appropriately preserve the story, reverently honor all who were touched by that day, and maintain the almost sacred nature of the physical site itself has made it at once one of the most important and sensitive experiential projects ever undertaken, in almost every aspect of its development.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is emotionally powerful, thought provoking and intellectually challenging throughout.  It thoroughly integrates the site of the event itself into the experience, displays artifacts of every scale in compelling ways, and provides detailed context and historical record in juxtaposition with emotional witness and testimony of the stories events. The audio visual media and interactives are powerfully dynamic but sensitively engaging, giving visitors many alternate ways to connect to the story. The space also provides eloquent moments of honor and tribute, and meditative spaces which memorialize, in very personal and profound ways, those who perished on that day. (Photo: Joe Woolhead)

Documenting and preserving the story of 9/11 has been an incredibly complex and challenging effort, requiring not only the involvement of leading architects, designers, curators, historians and filmmakers, but more importantly an unprecedented process of participation between multiple stakeholders who have the strongest possible emotional and personal connection to the mission of the museum. Survivor families, witnesses, historians and federal and local government agencies from multiple jurisdictions were all involved. Every detail of the site, the building, story, the artifacts, and the method of presentation were rigorously examined, debated and discussed by stakeholders and designers in search of a consensus to determine the appropriate form and experience the Memorial Museum would present. It was a very long, highly politicized, emotionally charged and occasionally very contentious process.

The magnitude of the event it preserves would make the 9/11 Memorial Museum an important project in any circumstance. The added challenge of political factions, multiple stakeholders and need to reach consensus in presenting a highly sensitive and complex story on a hallowed site could easily have resulted in a project which felt "safe," sanitized or frozen in time. Due to the passion and perseverance of the stakeholders and the designers, however, this Museum fulfills its mission, conveying its important story with eloquence and emotional power while allowing for thoughtful reflection, learning and tribute by every visitor.

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