Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Architecture/Place/Memorial

The Art of Nature

A current dweller of Monsey, NY (Rockland County), I couldn’t seem to think of any specific piece of art that defines the place. No specific architecture. No specific memorial. No specific form of transportation. Well, I needed to find something that defines where I live. So, while there is no specific piece of art that is manmade to define my community, “Mother Nature” has definitely left her mark. If paintings and photographs of nature are considered art, then surely G-d’s work itself is art, as well.

The contrast of the abundant nature and scenery of where I currently live to where I first grew up (Flatbush, Brooklyn) is best made by friends from the city that come over for a visit. Comments like “you live in middle of nowhere!” and “why are there hardly any sidewalks?!” cause me to appreciate the tranquility of the suburb in which I live even more. And, my (Monsey born) little sister’s remarks upon our visits to Brooklyn of “How did you live here? It’s so crowded and gloomy” cause me to remind her to to appreciate the nature that surrounds her every day.


October 4, 2012   1 Comment

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to visit the area where the Twin Towers stood for the first time in about 15 years. I don’t have any memories of that first visit unfortunately, but the day they went down will be ingrained in my memory forever.


The first thing I noticed about the memorial site was the design of the Freedom Tower and the surrounding buildings. They all have a beautiful reflective surface that reflects the sky and the surrounding buildings. Together, they create a breathtaking visual effect. I can only imagine how amazing the area will look when all of the construction is finished.

When walking into the memorial, I had some idea of what it would be like based off of descriptions that my friends had given me. The actual memorial however, blew my  ideas out of the water. I was unprepared for the sheer size of the North and South Pools. They really help people who never had an opportunity to visit the original site get an idea of how big these buildings really were.

The color black was used heavily throughout the two pools. Black is traditionally associated with mourning. In the memorial it helps set a somber tone that aids in reflecting on the lives that were lost.

Around the perimeter of the of the pools are the names of the people who lost their lives. Hearing how many people died and actually seeing most of their names were very different experiences for me. Seeing the names helped me better reflect on what a profound tragedy this was.

A common theme that I think I noticed was how the victims of the attacks were themselves, made a part of the memorial in a symbolic sense. When I looked at the names I noticed that they were cut into the bronze rather than written on top. While this was likely done so that the names could “light up” at night, I felt that there was another reason as well. Cutting into something is very different from simply writing on top of it. When a cut is made into something that cut is now a part of that something. The names are part of the memorial and by extension, so are the people.

I think this also applied to the water in the pools. The water flowed out from the area with the names and then plunged deep inside the memorial. I like to think that the water was representative of the people and that by going inside the memorial it was like they were becoming a part of its foundation.



One of my favorite parts of the memorial was the Survivor Tree. After reading its story I was really amazed. I thought it was really cool how it was representative of the resilience of the survivors. On a larger scale it also represents how New York and the country persevered  in the wake of the attack.


October 3, 2012   2 Comments

My Experience at the 9/11 Memorial

It’s hard for me to remember 9/11/2001. I remember sitting in school, doing work like usual, and the teachers all told us to quietly get up and move into an assembly room. As I went to school at a Jewish Day School in a very populated suburb of Boston, they had concerns about our safety. Everyone around the country who was near any city was concerned about safety. The country essentially shut down for close to 24 hours until what happened could be sorted out. I can say I remember that day, but I can honestly say I don’t remember what the world was like pre-9/11 security.

The events on 9/11 changed the way the world works. I can’t remember a time when metal detectors and X-Ray machines weren’t standard, or expected.  It’s been a part of the way my generation has grown up.

Not having a visceral memory of the events, I came into this memorial hoping to feel and experience what had happened over 11 years ago. One of my mother’s coworkers’ husband was John Ogonowski, the pilot of flight 11, the first flight that hit the north tower, but I still had trouble connecting with the events of that day.

The memorial did it for me. The sheer majesty and magnitude of the sight hits hard right as you walk through the gate, while walking the grounds makes you realize the sheer size of the buildings that once stood here. The design of the memorial is spectacular, as the symbolism of the water flowing through the footprints of the buildings is detailed all the way down to the opening under the nameplates where you can actually reach in and touch the water. It’s striking. I only saw a few people who looked like they were mourning the loss of a loved one, but to see their anguish as they placed yellow flowers on the plaque next to the name of those they lost was unbelievably powerful. The site is incredible.

We were also fortunate that we stayed long enough to see the lights come on in the pools as well as underneath the names. The water is lit up so it appears as though they create another dimension, making the pool look twice as large. Each droplet gets a sliver of light as it cascades into the center. The names each get backlighting as well, as you can see in the photos below.

To be able to take a moment of silence, a moment of reflection, and a moment of peace at this memorial is something I’m glad I had the opportunity to do. To imagine all those who did not or will not have the opportunity to make it to New York to see this beautiful representation of a horrific tragedy is difficult, and proximity is one thing definitely on a student in NYC’s side. It was tragic, moving, and remarkable, and I can’t wait to visit again.

October 2, 2012   No Comments

My Thoughts on the 9/11 Memorial

Hi everyone!

I had never been to either the 9/11 Memorial or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, so I really enjoyed the experience of visiting them this past Thursday. Although I did not lose anyone in my immediate family on the day of the attacks, I certainly was, and still am, affected by that tragic event in a rather profound way. As I walked around the two pools reading the seemingly endless list of names, they really struck an emotional chord in me. The one in the picture below that reads, “Vanessa Lang Langer and her unborn child,” caused me to pause in a moment of reflection, for I was admirable of the mother-to-be’s selfless act, yet deeply troubled by the life that never was.

I really enjoyed the sound of the waterfall as it created an overall soothing sensation around the memorial. The sight of the fluid, rather than static, water also brought a sense of being cleansed, as if all the hatred, anger, and despair surrounding that day was being washed away into the dark depths of the pools. We are now in a process of regrowth as we begin to rebuild physically, in the form of new trees and buildings, but emotionally as well. And this, I thought, was very appropriately reflected in the sign they placed on the grass.


October 2, 2012   1 Comment

Basant and Memories of Pakistan

I was born in the Pakistani city of Lahore.  My family moved to New York before I turned one. Since that time we have periodically returned to Lahore to visit loved ones. For this assignment, I looked for something that reminded me of those trips.

The image below is of a watercolor painting titled Basant. It was made by Dr. Ajaz Anwar, an artist who dedicates his works to perserving the cultural heritage of the city. This particular piece really spoke to me.


Basant is a large annual festival that celebrates the coming of spring. People celebrate by flying beautifully colored kites. On this day, the sky is literally full of kites. The painting helps give people an idea of what it looks like.

While I’ve only been lucky enough to participate in the festival once; the kites in the painting remind me of Lahore. Kite flying in general is a popular pastime in Pakistan. During my trips, on any given afternoon you could see at least a few kites sailing high above the city.

Another aspect of the painting that reminds me of Pakistan is the roof. It may sound silly but it’s true. Large, flat, accessible roofs are a part of most houses there. Not only are they the go to place for kite flyers but in warm weather people like to sit outside on the roof to enjoy the view and cool breeze. A lot of my memories are simply of spending time on the roof of my cousin’s house, enjoying the day and each others company.

October 2, 2012   No Comments

My Neighborhood

I pondered for a few days how exactly I can capture my neighborhood with a photograph. As a resident of Elmhurst, my first thought was inevitably a picture of Queens Center Mall, but I decided that would be too boring and clichè. I thought about taking a picture of the New York City skyline that can be seen from behind my apartment building, but then I thought to myself, “What!? You don’t live in Manhattan!” Finally, I decided to take a picture of Queens Boulevard, one of the many jewels of the borough. I realize that it may be a bit trite, but it is still not as boring as a picture of Queens Center, in my opinion. At any time of day, at any point on the boulevard, this is about exactly what you would see: an endless expanse of streetlights, headlights lined up two by two, and lines of brightly lit stores, ranging from chain stores to restaurants to delis to dentists’ offices to barber shops. Additionally, you would see lines of apartment buildings behind these stores.I tried to express this diversity through this image. It may be a bit difficult to see, however. I notice now, that by pure accident, I managed to capture a moving MTA bus. This is a good representation of my neighborhood as well because areas such as mine rely quite heavily on public transportation. I live near several large shopping centers, so people coming from all over the five boroughs need a convenient way to reach these places.

October 2, 2012   1 Comment

9/11 Memorial Recap

South Pool

I experienced a very strange and unexpected mix of emotions when we visited the 9/11 Memorial last Thursday. I have no personal connection to the tragedy whatsoever; because of this, I have never felt particularly inclined to visit the memorial; I have always thought that it would just depress me with some sort of tacky memorial attached to a gift shop. However, I realized the truly awe-inspiring effects of the memorial when we first entered and all I could hear was a constant stream of water. The sound was almost deafening. I soon made my way to the South Pool and began staring into it, watching the constant stream of water. There were a number of things that really spoke to me about that scene. Firstly, I saw in a couple of places among the lists of names of the deceased along the side of the pool, names of women and their unborn children who had passed away in the tragedy.

Seeing that made an enormous impact on my state of mind. I could suddenly picture a jovial young woman, probably in her early thirties, making her way to her desk, preparing for another day of work, as her friendly coworkers approach her and ask her when she is due and if she has thought of any names yet. I picture them rubbing her belly, trying to connect with her baby. All of a sudden, there is a deafening earth-shaking crash, and soon…silence. This imagery brought me to the verge of tears. Even now as I write this, it is very emotionally disturbing to picture something so cruel and unfair to a child who has not been brought into the world yet, to someone who has not had the chance to appreciate the warmth and love of others.

Another aspect of the memorial that was very powerful was the structure of each of the pools and the movement of the water within them. When I first approached the South Pool, I found myself wondering why there is a square within the square base of the pool.

Then, I started observing the water around the pool. It seemed very calm, organized, and tranquil. Then, as it reached the edge of the inner square, the cohesive properties of the water molecules began to fall apart as the drops began free-falling in a very randomized motion. I stared at that for a while and wondered if that effect was intentional when this pool was designed. It seemed like the tranquil water around the inner square represented the lives of the people before that tragic day. Everything was normal and peaceful. Then, finally, as their lives led up to that day, just as the water calmly approached the seemingly endless pit, everything became just as chaotic as the water molecules after having reached the edge of the square.

After, I found myself staring at the walls of the pool for quite a long time. I realized after a few minutes that I had been subconsciously forming patterns with the water as it cascaded gracefully down the walls. I took a video of the scene, which you can find above. I also took a few photographs of what I saw.

The patterns I made out on the walls of the water falling down were like flames. It looked like perpetual flames were burning on the walls of the pool, rising and falling gently, succumbing to the force of gravity. Those “flames” really spoke to me. I saw them continue to “burn” for several minutes, just watching them rise and fall, ebb and flow, and I thought to myself that this may have also been a deliberate effect, reminding everyone to never forget the tragedy that took place in this very location. Those “flames” are a perpetual reminder.

Another aspect of the memorial that really inspired me was the survivor tree on the property.

The stump of this tree was about the only surviving organism found after the attacks occurred on that day. With debris piling up to be several hundred feet in height, it is hard for most people to comprehend the idea that something could have survived amidst all of that chaos. This tree is a sign of hope, of miracles, of the idea that something good can prevail when evil seems to be descending from all sides. It also got me thinking about the pregnant women whose names i found along the side of the pools. As the lives of their babies were so unfairly taken, this tree was standing still and strong, demonstrating the full beautiful circle of life, as trite as that may seem as I write it here.

As I was leaving the memorial, one of the final things that caught my eye was the structure of this museum that is currently under construction on the site. The exterior seems to be about complete, but the inside needs much work. This museum has been the subject of much controversy for quite some time now, over what should and should not be included, and in what manner certain things should be included. With as many people affected as there were by the tragedy, it would be just about impossible to please everybody, so the museum remains unfinished. However, what truly caught my eye about this building is its architecture. As seen in this picture, the building has a very unique shape to it, quite unlike the usual rectangular prism we would expect to find among the New York City skyline. The shape is completely irregular with slanted windows. The revolutionary shape seems to be very innovative and modern. I could not help but compare this to the simplicity of the pools built where the North and South towers had once stood. Through simple movements of water, I had found deep meanings behind the pools. This museum, with its modern architecture, speaks to me in the sense that it is looking ahead, into the future, powerfully honoring the memories of those who lost their lives on that unfortunate day.

October 2, 2012   No Comments

The 9-11 Memorial

Its been 11 years since the tragic fall of New York City’s beloved twin towers. September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered as the day that hundreds of people were lost to the rubble that was once the twin towers.

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to visit the 9-11 Memorial that serves to remember and commemorate all those who lost their lives on this tragic day. The memorial consists of two pool; a North pool and a South pool. These pools are built in the dimensions of the buildings. Upon entering the memorial the sound of water rushing down fills our ears and drowns out all sound. The sound is peaceful and immediately draws our attention to the water. The water falls inward similar to how to the towers collapsed. The water is rapidly falling from the sides in a disorderly manner but calms down as it reaches the bottom only to fall down another opening in the middle. This signifies the attack. After the first plane crash there was silence and people thought that the attack was over. However another plane crashed into the second building creating commotion again. Similarly the water falls in a chaotic manner and then becomes calm only to be followed by another chaotic falling. Also, the rushing water is a common element of many memorials as it represents purity and serenity. Around the pools are the names of all those who lost their lives.


Furthermore, unlike many other memorials where the names are engraved into, the names are carved into the sides. I believe that this adds a much more permanent touch to the memorial. Just as the names are carved into the sides, this event has been carved into our memories.


Just before visiting the 9-11 Memorial, we visited the Vietnam War Memorial. This memorial had no waterfall but a large wall. On the wall were engraved letters to the families of the soldiers. These letters written by the Vietnam soldiers conveyed loving messaging giving their regards and ensuring of their safety for the time being.


These two memorials had a very peaceful and calming feeling. This peaceful feeling helped spark a connection and a sense of emotion for the victims of these two events even though I had not known them and therefore the artwork/architecture present at these memorials did just what it was supposed to do.



October 2, 2012   No Comments

Memorial Visit Recap

On Thursday, September 27th we visited two memorials that were located in Manhattan, the Vietnam Veteran memorial and the 9/11 memorial.







The Vietnam memorial was in secluded place. It seemed as if not many people have visited as they would a regular war memorial. I believe this is because of all the mixed feelings surrounding the Vietnam War.



Vietnam War Wall

Once you enter you can see a great big green wall made up of what seems to be dense glass. What’s interesting about the glass is that it seemed to be transparent in some parts, but denser in others.

However, what was certain was that the writing on the glass was from soldiers who were in the war. These writing were mainly from them to their family members. One of them caught my attention more than the others. It was from a soldier who wrote to his father at his office. He explained to him that he wasn’t going to make it and that he wanted his father to relay the message to his mother because the soldier himself couldn’t do it.

On one side of the memorial there was a fountain. If you stood behind it at a certain angle, it almost sounded as if you heard artillery coming from the water.bIt gave me a feeling of what these soldiers had to go through while they partook in the war. Seeing their words on the wall while hearing the similar sounds they heard gave me a feeling of utmost gratitude. It made me thankful for them, to fight for our country’s beliefs and morals.

The 9/11 memorial was much more crowded. I believe this is the case because 9/11 was a more recent tragedy that erupted a worldwide concern. The 9/11 memorial will be forever held as an vital and essential memorial to the people that suffered during the 9/11 attacks.


9/11 Memorial- South Pool


9/11 Memorial- North Pool


Like the Vietnam Veteran memorial, the 9/11 memorial also used water. There were two vast pools of where the towers once stood. Each in the shape of a square, with a inner square of water as well as you can see from the picture above.  The outer square of water seemed to be more chaotic and the inner square of water seemed to be more at peace. I believe this was designed to convey how it really felt the day of the attacks. Outside the towers, people panicked with fear. It was chaos everyone, especially in Manhattan. But on the inside, it was a grim sober place. People were dying and losing hope for survival. It’s almost as if the water conveyed the spirits of the people who perished in the towers that day.


9/11 Memorial- Roses at na

9/11 Memorial- Rose at Name

Something that distinguished the 9/11 memorial from the Vietnam Veteran memorial was that various people placed yellow roses at the names of their loved ones. I watched in amazement as the family and friends placed roses at the names of their loved ones in tears. It then occurred to me the event that transpired on this ground nearly 11 years ago truly rocked the foundation of the world.


Spending time at memorials allows people to reflect about themselves. It allows them to be thankful for the people that sacrificed their lives, to make our lives easier to live by. Memorials allow us to step into the lives of numerous soldiers/civilians for a moment to grasp what they went through. It finally gave me the chance to thank our fallen heroes for committing the greatest acts of bravery the world has ever seen.













October 2, 2012   No Comments

The Beauty of the 9/11 Memorial, and a Minor Flaw

When I first entered the memorial site, I kept looking around for where the waterfalls were. I could only hear the sound of rushing water, but the structure itself was nowhere to be seen. I followed the sound to its source and it slowly came into view. People were crowding around the sides of the waterfall, so I had to walk around before I actually got a spot to take a good look. Before coming to the memorial, I had only seen pictures of the two waterfalls. When I saw it live for the first time that day, I was stunned at its enormity; I had to stand still for a while and take in the whole view.  It was beautiful. Pictures cannot fully depict the memorial’s vastness as well as the feeling of being engulfed by the sound of its rushing falls.

After taking in the initial view, I started looking at the details of the site. What stood out to me was the pattern of the water that was falling. It looked familiar. The original Twin Towers had a similar pattern.



Whether this was done on purpose or not, I thought it was brilliant. It is a great way to pay tribute for what was originally there.

Although the memorial is beautiful, there was one thing about it that I felt could be made better. Surrounding the waterfalls are names of those who lost their lives on that day. Their names are inscribed in bronze and the metal seems to be painted black. At certain places, the black paint is fading, revealing a yellow color.

This ruins the uniformity of the memorial and it appears old. I thought the designers of the memorial could have done a better job in choosing a suitable material for the names.

Besides that minor problem, I think this memorial is simply stunning and beautiful.

October 2, 2012   2 Comments