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The Infinite spire and fallen headstones project

In 2003, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation organised a design competition for a memorial honouring the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In March 2003, I was contacted by Brian McConnell, a SETI researcher, author and telecom entrepreneur based in San Francisco, to work on his design proposal for the competition. It consisted in 2 elements: a 600m-high metallic spire giving the illusion of being infinite and a group of small headstones arranged in an apparently random pattern in or near the footprints of the towers. Because mathematics played an important role in the design, POV-Ray was a good tool to create the visualisations. Particularly, the spire itself could be created with a single equation, either as a mesh or as an isosurface. A watercolour artist, Robert Becker, took care of the other images.

A comprehensive description of this project can be found on the website infinitespire.weblogger.com.

Brian's project, one out of the 5201 designs that entered the competition, was sent in June 2003 but wasn't part of the finalists. The winner, "Reflecting absence", by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, can be seen here. There will be, however, a 600-m "Freedom tower" on the WTC site?

The images below were created for the presentation board. They weren't supposed to be 100% realistic as some idealisation is necessary for this sort of project. Also, how the surrounding buildings would look wasn't very well defined. The dimensions and sun position, however, are correct. The tools used apart POV-Ray were Rhino (for the other buildings and some minor elements) and XFrog (for the plants and trees).

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image. The last two images are 360° Quicktime panoramas.


Brian McConnell's Infinite Spire and Fallen Headstones World Trade Center Memorial Project, June 2003. Artwork by Gilles Tran