Torrey Butzer, one of the two designers of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, says dusk is her favorite time of day for visiting the memorial.
"It's that transition from daylight to darkness. The light starts coming up on the chairs. It's a more peaceful time of day. People have gone home. It's more quiet. You can hear the water more in the fountain, in the pool," she said.
The memorial has been compared frequently to Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was dedicated in 1982. Both memorials include the names of those who have died.
On the Lin memorial, more than 58,000 names of missing or dead have been inscribed on black granite walls that gently descend into the ground.
The two memorials have been credited for listing individual names rather than acknowledging "en masse" those who died.
Hans Butzer, co-designer of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and dean of the University of Oklahoma Gibbs College of Architecture, praises Lin's work.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he said, was one of the first to break away from the vertical style of traditional war monuments. Obelisks, for example, considered a "stoic style," can be found in smaller communities or town squares throughout the country. Many of those have listed names.
"But Lin created a human scale for those names," he said.
No longer were names on a vertical monument that almost sought to make us "feel smaller, by its form or proportion.
"Her low wall that emerged, created this beautiful fold, like giant arms that seek to embrace those that were visiting," Hans said. Lin created a scale to walk horizontally to see the names and take them in.
Likewise, the Oklahoma City National Memorial has created a human scale, too, with the chairs. It also invites participation.
Hans said the Oklahoma City design is unique because he and his wife sought to give each of the 168 individuals who died an "individual moment, not in the form of a list. Not 'banding' them together.
"We wanted to create an individual moment for each of them, rather than band them together on a wall," he said.
Torrey won't say which one of them came up with the idea of the empty chairs.
"We tried out different ideas. We both came up with a lot of it," she said.
"The empty chairs spoke to both of us. It presented a good way to sense absence, as well as presence," she said.
Since the chairs are grouped together, they can represent the huge loss of life as a mass, or one entity.
"Or, go up to the individual chair (with a name on it) and sense the individual loss," she said.
Visitors are welcome to visit the chairs up close, but Torrey cautions, "Be reverent."
Both Butzers praise the maintenance of the outside area. They serve as voluntary consultants on maintenance issues.
"They put so much money and effort into it. So many memorials won't survive because they don't have a long-term plan for care. Ours does," says Torrey.
Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, pledges that the museum and the memorial will always be maintained at the highest level.
"We didn't cut corners when we built it. We're not going to cut corners when we maintain it," she said.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum will be featured in a national PBS series called "10 Monuments That Changed America." The hourlong program will be broadcast at 7 p.m. July 17 on PBS. Both Butzers have been interviewed for the program. The program features "daring artists (who) found new ways to honor our history."
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Source : http://newsok.com/article/5591746/husband-and-wife-recall-their-design-of-oklahoma-city-national-memorial