University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Lexington, KY


University of Kentucky College of Design Helps Create 9/11 Memorial

By ukcod
Sep 14, '11 4:07 PM EST
Unveiling at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY
Unveiling at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY

By Whitney Hale

Ten years ago, the lives of Americans were forever changed as the nation came under attack. During the September 11 weekend people across the United States took a moment to remember those lost on 9/11. Among those coming together in memory of the fallen, was a group from the University of Kentucky College of Design who helped design a monument honoring those lost on that awful day in American history.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky was selected to receive a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center towers following the 9/11 tragedy. UK College of Design partnered with St. Elizabeth Healthcare Hospice to design and build a concrete base for the steel I-beam to create the St. Elizabeth Healthcare World Trade Center Memorial. The monument was unveiled at memorial ceremonies on Sunday, Sept. 11, at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, located at 1140 Madison Ave., in Covington, Ky.

The design of the memorial's concrete base was chosen through the "World Trade Center Steel Student Design Competition” presented by alumna Catherine Smith at the college during the Spring 2011 semester. Students were given rough measurements and a few requirements for their concept. Designs had to include a concrete base, and be transportable.

Senior architecture student Michael Payton May's design was chosen for the I-beam's base of the memorial, for which he received a cash prize.

"I thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity. To have an idea truly manifest itself physically and then be shared with others for what could potentially be a long period of time in a hospital providing encouragement is nice," says May, a native of Pikeville, Ky.

Graduate architecture student Michael Mead, of Binghamton, N.Y., and architecture junior Ben Ward, of Lexington, under the direction of instructor, Rives Rash, took over the monument project this summer. Upon delivery of the I-beam, the group realized that they would need to make some alterations to the design due to the condition in which the beam arrived. 

Mead and Ward had no hesitation when Rash asked them to help with the special project over the summer.

"I jumped at the opportunity because it has a lot of meaning to me," says Mead. "I am sure it has meaning to a lot of people everywhere."

Rash and his team reworked the original design concept to accommodate the beam they received, yet still capture the spirit of May's proposal. In addition the group softened the beam's edges due to safety concerns. Over three months, the base design was created in digital software, fabricated and finished during a sanding and sealing process before coming together with the beam.

The final design of the base itself is twisted to match the way the beam was bent in the terrorist attack on the towers.

"Seeing that I-beam and the way it bent, it really tells a story about the guts of the building of what happened and what it actually took to take those towers down," says Mead.
The opportunity to work on such an important piece of America's history was not lost on Rash and his team.

"At first sight it was pretty heavy and not just the beam's 126 lbs.," says Rash. "I did get chills thinking about everything it has gone through and all the people that day drastically influenced. I will forever remember exactly what I was doing that morning."

The St. Elizabeth World Trade Center Memorial was unveiled at the 10th anniversary ceremonies of the 9/11 tragedy at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. The Most Reverend Roger J. Foys honored the region's first responders and formally blessed the St. Elizabeth World Trade Center Memorial.

The St. Elizabeth World Trade Center Memorial has been made available to churches, schools, civic organizations and the Northern Kentucky community for educational and commemorative events throughout the year. After it completes its tour, the memorial will find its home at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Hospice where it hopefully serves as a reminder of our ability to overcome difficult times and to inspire all those who receive care at the facility.

To see an interview with Rives Rash and Michael Mead visit: