From Portraits to Puddles

New York City Memorials from the Civil War to the World Trade Center (Reflecting Absence)

by Dianne L. Durante

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From Portraits to Puddles

Surely we can offer the victims of 9/11 a better tribute than Reflecting Absence, a gloomy piece of landscape architecture with lists of names. But what makes an effective tribute? What makes a memorable memorial?

The sculptures in nearby Battery Park provide excellent examples of memorials dedicated over the past hundred years. In this essay, I point out lessons from half a dozen of them that can be applied to a memorial for the World Trade Center - and I explain how our memorials declined from portraits to puddles.

This essay has almost 150 photos, including archival images. Read it in the comfort of your armchair or go on a walking tour; maps as well as tips for taking photos of outdoor sculpturesare included.

The essay ends with an illustrated and annotated list of 30 memorials in Manhattan that are dedicated to people whose job is to keep us safe: soldiers, policemen, firemen, and so on. If you want to visit other memorials that are both effective and memorable, it’s a great place to start.

The following works are discussed in detail in From Portraits to Puddles. Links are included when the work is also discussed on this site.