Some days ago I posted on my Instagram profile a photo of my neighbourhood in Padua, that included a sight on Memoria e Luce (Memory and Light) the 9/11 Memorial by architect Daniel Libeskind. It is the only 9/11 Memorial in Europe, inaugurated on September 11, 2005.
The 9/11 Memorial in Padua
The memorial consists of a 6 meter long twisted steel beam, retrieved from the World Trade Center and mounted in a 17 meter high (and 50 long) architectonic glass structure which recalls an open book (mimicking the facades of the Twin Towers) and lights up at night. The book is open in the direction of the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The World Trade Center beam
First, it was exhibited at the 2002 Venice Biennale at the American Pavilion. On that occasion an idea started to form. That of built a monument to remember the 3000 victims of the terrorist attack.
After the Biennale, the US State Department donated the beam to the Veneto region, in order to build a memorial in a place of highly symbolic value. And they chose Padua.
The architect Daniel Libeskind
Daniel Libeskind was hired, the same architect who was behind the World Trade Center reconstruction and oh the Jewish museum in Berlin. Libeskind, now naturalized american, had Polish Jew parents, survived to Nazi Lagers.
The message of Padua’s 9/11 memorial
On the structure you can read:
“Citizens, I used to be a steel beam in the Twin Towers but in Kentucky there was Abraham Lincoln’s poor house”.
United States’ sixteenth President, he fought for the elimination of slavery. A few days before being killed by a fanatic, during his inauguration speech for his second mandate, he stated: “I continue the work that has been started without any hate towards anybody and with charity for all.”
“The morning light shall get along with us till the night comes, on the mountains crest and on the sea rivers.”
Mario Rigoni Stern (who was an Italian writer from the Veneto region and World War II veteran)
This memorial was placed along the city canal, visible from the bridge that people have to cross to reach the city center from the train station. It is located 5 minutes from one the most famous attraction of the city, the Scrovegni Chapel. And yet, not many tourist notice it. Maybe because, while passing by in daylight, it seems a glass building.
An open book
It reveals its true nature only if seen from the opposite direction. An open book, that, as Libeskind himself explained, refers to the book held by the Statue of Liberty, that reports the Declaration of Independence date.
Light as symbol of hope
Only at night the 9/11 memorial reveals its fundamental component: light, which is a symbol of hope against dark and fear. This was Libeskind’s speech at the inauguration
“The light of Liberty shines through the Book of History. This Book is open to the memory of the heroes of September 11, 2001. The eternal affirmation of Freedom is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, as seen by millions of emigrants coming to America. In the left-hand page, is inscribed the dramatic beam salvaged from the World Trade Centre attack. The latitude of New York is connected to the center of Padua as the vertical hinge of the Book.
The Book is luminous, as is the low and expressive wall which creates an intimate place for meditation. The luminosity of this ‘beacon’ will be modulated in subtle rhythms. The Book is delicately balanced between the historical buildings of Padua, the bridge, and the waterway. The memorial also includes the re-discovery of the historical masonry wall and the creation of a place that is both memorable and uplifting. This special place will glow day and night, and throughout the seasons of the year.”
But why Padua? Here is what the American console Deborah Grace explained at the inauguration:
“Padua is a city with a long tradition of tolerance, which houses one of the oldest (1222) universities in Europe, where Galileo Galilei’s teaching has left its mark. This city is the cradle of civilization and culture since the Middle Ages, when students from all over Europe came to these streets. Padua still teaches us that we must not be afraid of science. We must instead be afraid of ignorance and intolerance which are the main causes of violence and fanaticism.”
The Memorial stands at the so called Porte Contarine, Contarine Gates, one of the most important plumbing complexes in Veneto, dating back to 1200. Thanks to this system it was possible to allow canal transport of goods to and from Venice and Vicenza.
I won’t hide that many of my fellow citizens do not like the monument and some also complained about the location and the costs. But I personally love it. I like to see it when I pass by.
This whole area was heavily bombed during the II World War (mainly by Anglo-American forces) and the reconstruction (not well thought out maybe) resulted in an eclectic and quite unaesthetic profile.
So I don’t think that this beautiful and, above all, meaningful 9/11 memorial is mismatched here. By the way, it is located in my own neighbourhood and I live in one of those 80s buildings.
Besides, I think this is a significant memorial not only for the tragical attack of 2001 but against terrorism and violence in general, wherever they are perpetrated.
What about you?
What do you think about it? And, most of all, have you ever noticed this Memorial when in Padua?
Memoria e Luce
Via Giotto, 13 – Padua
7 am – 9.30 pm