Comment of the week

A privilege of  having a popular blog is sometimes smart people come by and calmly, warmly, without a hint of snark, straighten me out.  This post from Ian both identifies all my missteps in an earlier post about design and the 9/11 memorial (where I moronically jumble various contexts and points) and offers a recipe for how I could have more clearly made my point.

Here’s Ian’s comment:

It seems like the argument here rests on a couple of ideas:

1) The concept of name adjacencies on the memorial is a weak concept.
2) The memorial was delayed because of the difficulty of executing this concept.

And the conclusion is that because it’s a weak concept, it wasn’t worth delaying the memorial.

The first is your opinion, which of course you’re entitled to. I have no way of disproving it, but if you do a search for ’9/11 names’ on Twitter you’ll find a lot of people declaring themselves very moved by it, for example Linda Tischler of Fast Company saying it was the only press briefing that she’s ever cried at. Again, just opinions.

The second premise is something that the NYer article could certainly lead you to believe, but really when you look at the overall project, the names arrangement was a smallish part of the overall complexity of the memorial and had no effect on delaying its construction. Consider that the memorials are waterfalls, each the size of the footprint of the WTC towers, and they are built on top of a 120,000 sqft museum.

I think this problem with this post is that it’s trying to make a general point about project management, most likely in the context of software given your bent, but fails to take into account what this thing is. It’s not a website. It’s a permanent memorial to one of the greatest tragedies ever occurring on U.S. soil. It will become a part of the city and if the city is still there in 100 years, so will the memorial. It was worth it I think to go beyond a purely functional organization of the name and try to express something that makes the memorial more moving. If being moving isn’t the core requirement of a memorial, I don’t know what is.

My response is here.

Thanks Ian.

2 Responses to “Comment of the week”

  1. Steve

    Ian’s comment is absolutely spot-on, and Scott, you’re a good man for posting this follow-up. When I left my feedback yesterday I was coming from the same place as all the people on Twitter who had been moved by the design of the memorial, and was a little bummed out by your saying it’s “ruined” even though you had freely admitted you “hadn’t seen the latest plans”. Your more general point about dealing with problematic requirements got lost in the shuffle.

    I recommend reading this profile of the designer, Michael Arad, as it does a great job of highlighting the challenges of working on such a politically and emotionally charged project:



Leave a Reply

* Required