THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2001

For, Now, How About A Monument of Light?

Even as rescue and clean-up efforts continue after the World Trade Center atrocity, New Yorkers are looking for ways to show that better days are ahead. Two local architects have an elegantly simple idea to demonstrate to their neighbors and the world that this city perseveres.

Gustavo Bonevardi and John Bennett, partners in PROUN Space Studio, are the minds behind PRISM, the Project to Restore Immediately the Skyline of Manhattan. The acronym reflects their use of light to help New York replace the wide spectrum of color and vibrancy that was darkened so severely on September 11.

As they envision this public monument, one month after the landmarks' destruction, a collection of high-intensity white lights would recreate the silhouettes of World Trade Center Towers One and Two. Pointing straight up, Bennett says, "They would create a defiant declaration of New York's, and humanity's resilience"

PRISM would not necessarily remain a fixture on Gotham's cityscape. While it might be in place for only a few weeks, it quickly would send an urgent message.

"This is not a permanent memorial to the victims of the attack," says Bonevardi. "This is a declaration of the people of New York that we're still here, and the spirit of New York survives. It's a statement to the world. It's putting our face up in a positive way. It's something that I think would be helpful to the healing process and inspire everyone to go on."

This idea popped into Bonevardi's head the day of the massacre. "When I was little, my father used to take me by the hand to see them build these building," says the New York native. "A piece of my life crumbled. I immediately, desperately started thinking, 'What can we do?' We can't put the buildings back right away. maybe they should be rebuilt. In the future, we'll see what we can do. For now, we can show the world and ourselves that we are resilient."

The two architects recently produced six videos for the just-concluded Museum of Modern Art exhibit "Meis in Berlin" which allowed each visitor to take a virtual walk through several homes and buildings created by legendary German architect Mies van der Rohe. They also developed a video installation for "MOMA Builds," a display on the Midtown Manhattan museum's current expansion.

Bonevardi and Bennett are hoping that PRISM will gain the support of New York citizens, civic leaders and Americans across the nation who have been touched so deeply by this calamity.

Like every New Yorker these days, I keep looking downtown to where those sleek, majestic skyscrapers once stood, hoping that somehow they magically will reappear. Their absence has left so many who walked in their shadows feeling violated and even amputated. Seeing a reminder of those lanky towers would do much to ease our pain and reassure us that we will survive even this. PRISM should send New Yorkers' spirits soaring infinitely into the evening sky.