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« Sometimes a grove of maples is just a grove of maples | Main | Oh, what mangled webs »

September 11, 2005


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Suppose some "Christian Identity" Neo-Nazis had bombed a convention center, killing 1,000 Jewish Americans in the name of Christ. Do you think that a crucifix-shaped memorial entitled "the Cross of Caring" would ever be considered appropriate, even if it was just a bizarre coincidence?

Hell, I can recognize a red crescent when I see one. You don't have to tell me what it represents. I made the connection immediately on seeing the damned thing, before reading a word about it. And you can bet that the radical islamists have too. The have got to be laughing their collective asses off at us. Their only real failing is a lack of patience. If they would just wait long enough we'll eventually cut our own throats.

While I appreciate artistic snobbery as much as anyone, I cannot agree with your assessment that these bloggers just don't don't get it, and what they see is based on "visual illiteracy."

I suppose you'll have a hard time convincing me of this based on the fact that I am a professional photographer and graphic artist, with more than a passing interest in the art and architecture of the Ottoman Empire, (the crescent shape was adopted by Osman, from a dream he had after his conquest of Constantinople in 1453,) and I see the same crescent Ms. Malkin and all the bloggers are seeing.

I sent this to my friend at the Architecture Department at PSU, and everyone he's shown it to sees the crescent as well. So I can rest assured it is not my lack of skill at reading topos at work here either.

Now if you want to continue your "visual literacy" pissing match, you can... I just want you to know that some of us in the visual communications/arts community strongly disagree.

Oops, just realized my error. My friend at PSU has not commented yet. A check of my iChat log revealed that the comments I attributed to him came from another architect, working out of Dallas, TX.

"As I see it, the crescent is in the eye of the beholder"

No, it is also in the **name** of the memorial. The name wasn't an accident: despite receiving criticism, the architect insisted on the name.

This isn't Ms. Malkin's hallucination: the crescent was what the architect wanted.

Whatever happened to the Left's insistence that that insensitivity is to be judged by the offended party, anyway?

Is the fact that the crescent points almost directly towards Mecca -- http://www.politicalities.com/politicalities/2005/09/it_points_towar.html -- a coincidence as well?

I agree, the crescent is in the eye of the beholder. It would be absurd to believe that it was not intended to be that way by design.

Beyond the easily discerned Islamic connontations, I am not aware of any relevance to the flight 93 story of a crescent. Having no other contextual relevance to flight 93, the crescent is either there to include the Islamic aspect, or it is there for no contextual reason whatsoever.

Are we to believe that the crescent shape, which is the single largest design element of the memorial, then was designed to communicate nothing whatsoever about flight 93 - that it is there just because it is a nice shape? If the shape has no contextual importance at all, then the architects inexplicably missed the opportunity to make the core element of their design relevant to the event and the people being memorialized. I find it hard to believe the designers (who seem otherwise brilliant) missed that aspect of their design.

Additionally, in the viewing context (walking and driving level at the memorial) the crescent is on the outer edge of perception relative to the other elements of the design owing to the large scale of the shape in that context, the materials that soften the edges delineating the shape when viewed that closely, and the elevation of the elements comprising the crescent. But, while the crescent is subliminal in the intended viewing context, it is most assuredly there - and its presence and mode of perception are not an accident.

The design is brilliant (in an amoral sense) in that it captures the entire context of the story of flight 93. But the entire context of flight 93 is not what is to be memorialized. With the acknowledgment of Islam's part of the story being at the subliminal level the design is brilliantly dishonest to the viewer as well as those it purports to memorialize.

Good grief. What's wrong with these people? Are we supposed to assume that visitors to the memorial site, embraced by a semicircle of maple trees, will somehow experience an unusual sense of affiliation with Islam? That by unwittingly orienting themselves toward Mecca, they will invite Jesus' purging wrath? Will this bring us more hurricanes, tornadoes, smog and anal sex? There's no need to spend more time demolishing the arguments against the memorial. It should be pointed out, however, that it becomes possible to "see" the site as an homage to Islam only by doing what bloggers do best -- by observing a three-dimensional world from an archimedian, flattened perspective that can be cut apart, pasted upside down, and scaled to fit whatever opiate dreams pass for political agency these days. Unable to imagine the experience of actually visiting the memorial site -- as the panel of artists, citizens and Flight 93 families who selected the design most certainly have done -- Malkin and friends satisfy themselves with the kind of fly-over analysis that George W. Bush inexplicably found sufficient in surveying another, more recent catastrophe.

Axis of Evel Kneievel: My post above was my observations as a designer myself. The questions and critique pertain to the real design elements of the work in context to flight 93. Your "comment" fully ignores the basic facts of the matter and instead you simply rail against "these people" adding nothing to the basic discussion. Here are some basic facts, address these or dismiss them, but at least contribute to the discussion instead of just generating ad hominem noise.

1. The designers purposefully and with much forethought chose a crescent for a reason or reasons. The designers acknowledge their largest design element as a crescent.

2. The crescent is well known to be a symbol of Islam. (The designers are presumed to be cognizant of this fact as they are educated, intelligent, and aware professionals.)

3. The intended viewing context places the cerscent above and just on the edge of perception. One could label it subliminal. The crescent is there, is perceived, but is not visible in terms of its summative form.

4. If the crescent has no connotation to Islam, then why was it chosen as the largest single design element of the memorial?

5. If the crescent was chosen simply because it is a nice shape and the designers liked it, how did they reconcile the Islamic crescent with their crescent in their design reviews and what led them to be comfortable that their crescent would not and could not defile the memorial with an easily mistaken perception?

6. The very fact that many people are perceiving an Islamic reference in the flight 93 memorial design is the responsibility of the designer. In terms of connotative baggage if you will, a crescent is a crescent just as a cross is a cross and a swastika is a swastika.

7. No one here chose the crescent as a symbol of Islam, nor as an element of the flight 93 memorial. They are pointing out (in various degrees of objectivity and emotion) what is a clear and obvious perception.

Thank you F15C, you have summed it up well.

Architects are trained in spacial design. To think the design is a coincidence is absurd. It is a crescent, otherwise the architects wouldn't have named it that. Period.

The trees may not taper exactly like a crescent but the other design features create that illusion. I'm certain that's why some on the jury suggested changing the name. But the architect didn't because he wanted the name to convey what he created, a crescent.

SISU, it is insulting for "experts" to assume that a lay person cannot understand their work properly. Your statement in the Power Line post that a lay person cannot grasp a topographic dispay is nonsense. The photograph of the topographic display taken from above allows every viewer to see the big picture instead of being lost in the trees at ground level.

I suspect some individuals on the jury were distracted and moved by the other views and aspects of the memorial and missed the obvious.

We who only saw the topo weren't as easily fooled, hence the outrage

I can't believe you can't see this is entirely intentional. The "Crescent of Embrace" is even pointing toward mecca. This is a disgrace to all the innocents who died on Flight 93. I would urge locals to protest and I would even donate to your effort.

With Conviction,


Change the name, but keep the design. I, for one, attribute the word "crescent" to far more than a Muslim symbol.

And something else: when the maple leaves turn colors over the changing seasons, is that going to make the "Muslim symbolism" all the more apparent?

I thought F15C had a good point. I present my idea for an improvement at Dean's World: http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1126440265.shtml#41769. I would be very interested in what professional designers thought of it.


I have to agree with those who perceive the echoes of a crescent. Only the delusional could rationalize how one's instantaneous recognition of what is in essence a form that is a crescent is not really a crescent. The fact that it is named as such -- by the architect himself -- clearly refutes the 'eye of the beholder' argument. When you have to argue with eloquence in support of such a design -- which will end up as the embodiment of such a delicate and meaningful sacred space -- it actually only goes to demonstrate a sophisticated insensitivity and a bit of callousness. There are some arguments that need to be heard for what they are instead of simply passed off as hyperinsensitivity.

I have an MA in Comparative Religion (Religion and Culture) from the University of Washington and I studied religion from many angles. What impressed me most of all was how we each perceive reality through perceptual lenses, for better or for worse. I think the vast majority of the Islamic community will perceive this as a crescent reminiscent of other crescents representative of their faith. I don't believe for a moment that those who fought -- and beat -- those killers who were committing their horrors in the name of Islam would want to be embraced by a shape that many will quickly see as a symbol of the faith that fueled the fanatics who killed them. It is insensitive, foolish, and may ultimately seen and used as a propaganda statement. Stop this insanity now. Just change the memorial design before it becomes heated up into another polarized fight; we can do without another fight in this already polarized country. Something is definitely wrong with the design and this time we really should err on the side of caution. We owe it to the brave members of Flight 93 who won the first battle in the global war against Islamic extremism.

I meant to say 'hypersensitivity' above (not 'hyperinsensitivity').

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