The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a place of quiet reflection. Designed by Butzer Design Partnership, this Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were changed forever on April 19, 1995. It encompasses the now-sacred soil where the Murrah Building once stood, as well as the surrounding area devastated during the attack.
The design was selected in an international competition including 624 entries submitted from every state and 23 countries. The winning design, created by the Butzer Design Partnership, was chosen by a committee comprised of family members, survivors, rescuers, civic leaders and design professionals.
The following map shows the layout of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial. Please note that North is to the right side of the map.
Gates of Time
These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.
The pool occupies what was once N.W. Fifth Street. Here, a shallow depth of gently flowing water helps soothe wounds, with calming sounds providing a peaceful setting for quiet thoughts. The placid surface shows the reflection of someone changed forever by their visit to the Memorial.
Field of Empty Chairs
The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building.
On the east end of the Memorial stand the only remaining walls from the Murrah Building. These walls remind us of those who survived the terrorist attack, many with serious injuries. Today, more than 600 names are inscribed on salvaged pieces of granite from the Murrah Building lobby.
The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree, an American Elm, bore witness to the violence of April 19, 1995, and withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience. The circular promontory surrounding the tree offers a place for gathering and viewing the Memorial.
Like the people who rushed in to help, this army of nut- and flower-bearing trees surrounds and protects the Survivor Tree. An inscription encircling the Survivor Tree facing the orchard reads: To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuers and volunteers who helped.
In the aftermath of the blast, children from around the country and the world sent in their own expressions of encouragement and love. That care is represented today by a wall of tiles painted by children and sent to Oklahoma City in 1995. In addition, buckets of chalk and chalkboards built into the ground of the Children’s Area give children a place where they can continue to share their feelings — an important component of the healing process.
The first Fence was installed to protect the site of the Murrah Building. Almost immediately, people began to leave tokens of love and hope on the Fence. Those items now total more than 60,000 and are collected and preserved in our archives. Today, more than 200 feet of the original Fence gives people the opportunity to leave tokens of remembrance and hope.
About the Designers
Hans and Torrey Butzer and Sven Berg Butzer Design Partnership Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Butzer Design Partnership was established in 1990 shortly after its partners, Hans and Torrey Butzer, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. For a period of two years, they completed various residential projects and graphic commissions. In January of 1992, they relocated to Germany, where they spent 5 ½ years working with several architectural firms.
In early 1997 while living in Berlin, Germany, they participated in an international design competition for the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial component of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Hans and Torrey’s associate Sven F. Berg assisted with the submission of their design. Their entry was selected as one of five finalists from a pool of 624 entries. As part of their final submission, Butzer Design Partnership submitted a list of team members that would act as consultants in the case that their entry be selected for construction. Included in that list were Sasaki Associates (Watertown, MA) and The Benham Group (Oklahoma City, OK).
The team, along with the other finalists, took their design to a 3-D model, proved their design could be built within budget and resubmitted their design to the Selection Committee, which consisted of fifteen voting panelists and one nonvoting recorder. This panel included eight members of the families, survivors and rescuers, along with civic leaders and design professionals.
Following the selection of their design for the Oklahoma City National Memorial in July of 1997, Hans and Torrey Butzer relocated to Cambridge, Mass., where Hans began graduate studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Throughout the phases of schematic design, design development, and construction documents, Butzer Design Partnership maintained artistic control of the design. Hans and Torrey Butzer traveled to Oklahoma City to present the design as it was developing to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and the group of family members, survivors, and rescuers.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated on April 19, 2000, by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Groundbreaking on the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was held in October 1998. In January of 1999 with construction just underway, Torrey relocated to Oklahoma City. Torrey was on-site almost daily, assisting the Memorial Foundation with the interpretation of the design during construction. In June of 1999, Hans received his Master of Architecture from Harvard University and promptly joined Torrey on-site.
Currently, the Butzers reside in Oklahoma City. Hans is a professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He and Torrey continue to pursue new projects for their Partnership both in the United States and in Europe through their affiliation with Sven Berg.