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Pentagon Memorial Sky Garden

Room 4.1.3’s memorial comprises 184 indigo cubes which appear to hover above a plaza. Inside each cube is a deep well of water and a small orange chest in which relatives of victims are invited to place private mementos. The cubes are analogous to “Black Box Flight Recorders”.

The Black Box Flight Recorder is a compelling symbol of the transience of memory in the technological age. In the Sky Garden they become Black Box Life Recorders, hovering memory containers that seemingly defy gravity. Constructed from blue-black reconstituted stone, they have a dignity and presence that conveys the solemnity of memory and the gravitas of this event.

Inserted into the side of each Black Box is a finely-crafted small chest, into which victims’ families are invited to place a memento for perpetuity. This precious container is of orange enamelled cast iron. Real black box flight recorders are coloured orange to aid in recovery, and that phrase becomes more powerful in the context of the memorial. Within the solemnity of the memorial, the orange gives a note of optimism, a spark of hope. The general metahoric purpose of this design is to take the mechanistic nature of a Black Box Flight Recorder and transform it into the personal poetics of life.

The Sky Garden derives its overall form and layout from the specific qualities of its context. The Pentagon’s façade is reflected and doubled to provide the configuration for the Life Recorders. With 92 windows on the section of the façade adjacent to the site, through doubling and slipping the grids, the plaza speaks directly to the building at the heart of the event. There is also a connection to the formality of nearby Arlington Cemetery.  Such a connection draws in the wider memorial environment, without explicitly duplicating the qualities of a cemetery.

Location: Washington D.C., USA

Project Team: Room 4.1.3
Client: Department of Defence

Year: 2002