July 31, 2002

Artist will recreate twin towers in pond

Seattle Daily Journal Staff Reporter

The twin towers will be replicated in an installation at Bellevue Downtown Park Sept. 9-11, as a WTC memorial.

The last time Ingrid Lahti was in New York, she was in search of inspiration. The dirty, rain-soaked notes and clothing used as makeshift 9/11 memorials were "sad looking," the Mercer Island artist recalled.

But not far from ground zero, Lahti found what she needed: a fire department had hung up the badges of fallen fire fighters. "The thing that was really moving was that wall of the red fire house by ground zero," she said.

In her remembrance project for 9/11 victims, Lahti will use medallions hanging from two 10-foot towers to commemorate the one-year anniversary. The project will incorporate more than 2,800 medallions — one for each victim of the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania terrorist attacks. Lahti has received permission from the city of Bellevue to install the mini twin tower lookalikes in the pond at Bellevue Downtown Park Sept. 9 through Sept. 11.

The sculptures will be 10 feet tall and have steel frames. Jeff Gilliland and Scott Douglass of DCI Engineers in Bellevue are donating their time as structural engineers for the memorial.

"The process of recovery from trauma, injury and grief often requires revisiting the original traumatic event symbolically in order to defuse the shock and pain," she said. "That facilitates the healing process for all."

Lahti said she chose the twin towers because they represent the tragedy in the same way the American flag represents renewed patriotism.

"The sculptures attempt to use a symbol to safely revisit the 9/11 trauma in a supportive community atmosphere, and to allow the community to personally create element of the sculptures," she said. Lahti said Maya Lin's famous Vietnam memorial works in the same way — inviting people to be drawn in to the memorial as they slowly descend, surrounded by granite, with the inscriptions of the names of the dead.

Community members will be invited to write, with Sharpie fine-point pens, the names of victims on the medallions. "Community participation is the soul of these sculptures. The will of the community completes the work — without that the sculptures will not exist."

The project will be done in collaboration with events at Bellevue Art Museum, which will be showing a video and host a 9/11 discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 10. The video, shot by then WTC artist-in-residence Monika Bravo, shows a storm as it passed the twin towers on Sept. 10. The museum, as well as Bellevue Square and the Bradford Center, will have the medallions available for signing in August. BAM, SAM and the Henry will all be free on Sept. 11.

In researching the proposal, Lahti said she felt most emotionally moved when writing the victims' names, and feels participants will share that experience. The medallions will create a fractured surface, suggesting the notion of the building in pieces, "like autumnal leaves or falling papers whose whispers in the wind and reflections of light evoke all those lives lost," she said.

For Lahti, this will be her second public art project, though it is a volunteer effort. Her first is a recent commission at the Tacoma Convention Center Sound Transit station. For that project she will place trail cairns in stainless steel cages — to suggest safe passage for travelers.

The 9/11 installation will differ from others, since it depends on both the site and the community. "These components together will create the experience," she said. "The sculpture will remind us of our interdependence and interconnectedness."

As the debate continues over what should take the place of the twin towers, Lahti said she favors an element of green.

"I liked the idea of making the site into a park and planting it with trees which are native to the countries from which the victims came and planting them in groves according to the groupings of bodies found in the excavation process," she said. "We need the air purification and natural life that forests, even small ones, bring. Also add skate board ramps and a trail for walking, jogging, biking and roller-skating. Let the site become filled with cries of pleasure instead of pain. Living well is the best revenge."

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