The “Tower of Voices” stands solemnly at the resolute Flight 93 National Memorial, the first 21st century new national park located in Shanksville, Pennsylvania nestled in the Allegheny Mountains. The crash site of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 is being remembered on its 20-year anniversary. The 93-feet tall musical monument represents the flight number and its 40 wind chimes represent the 40 crew and passenger members on the plane who died as heroes that day.
The precast concrete tower envelops the 40 chimes and opens towards a public plaza. The breathtaking, cultural and historic landmark was carefully placed near the park’s entrance with the intent of echoing the sound of voices making final phone calls to loved ones when they realized the plane had been hijacked. The ongoing changing of the land, wind and sound conditions of the site assure the enduring reverence we share and future generations will share for the efforts made by these heroes to abort the presumed attack on the U.S. Capital. Now, there lays a field of indigenous grasses with wildflowers and maple trees guide visitors from the visitors’ center to a plaza of panels with names of the crew and passenger members. A single boulder has been placed where the plane finally rested. The columns of the structure have branch connectors that represent the former Hemlock grove of the now sacred site. Five to ten feet long aluminum tubes serve as the chimes that are activated by the changing wind patterns.
The research for this unique project included an acoustical engineer, chimes artist, musician and wind consultants. Wind and simulation testing was required to determine the scale of the chimes. Mock-ups, modeling, and sound lab testing were also needed to ensure that the volume and tones of the enormous instrument were right when they sing together, like the diverse team of heroes joined together in harmony to protect America’s beloved country.
Location: Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Project by: Paul Murdoch Architects
Consultants: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and Arup Engineering
General Contractor: Leonard S. Fiore, Inc.
Photos by: Eric Staudenmaier Photography, courtesy of Paul Murdoch Architects