Flight 93 National Memorial

Shanksville, PA, United States / Paul Murdoch Architects

 

The Flight 93 National Memorial is a new 2,200-acre national park at the site in Western Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001. The park transforms the site, formerly a coalmine, into a designed memorial landscape that commemorates the 40 heroes on Flight 93 who gave their lives thwarting a terrorist attack on the U.S. capital. 

The plane crashed at the edge of an open field in front of a grove of hemlock trees, burning many of the trees. This Hemlock Grove, that absorbed the inferno of the crash, is the backdrop to the crash site, which is the focal point for the entire memorial experience. The distinct structure of the trees, with its straight, tall trunk and alternating angled branches, is the inspiration for the design motif expressed in concrete elements throughout the memorial.

The intersection of the crash site’s remote, rural location with a contemporary, terrorist act using an airliner is expressed through a dialogue of rustic, cast in place concrete walls and precisely formed black-stained precast concrete elements.

A pair of large cast-in-place concrete walls sweeps up to frame the sky where the plane flew overhead seconds before crashing. Black-stained precast guardrails define an entrance walkway aligned with the flight path leading through these high walls to an overlook of the crash site. 

The visitor center occurs adjacent to the flight path between the memorial walls. A polished, black concrete floor helps keep natural lighting subdued for exhibits. Skylights wash the two long walls to highlight the hemlock board finish. The interior wall closest to the crash site features precast concrete panels. Their black-stained hemlock finish recalls the charred hemlock trees burned by the crash.

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