Nearly six years ago, in November 2003, a design called Reflecting Absence, by NYC Housing Authority architect Michael Arad, was selected as one of the finalists for the World Trade Center Memorial. His design featured two pools in the footprints of the WTC's towers, with waterfalls cascading down their sides, and in January 2004, the design, revised with landscape designer Peter Walker, was chosen as the winning design. Today, the Port Authority says the Memorial is slated to open on September 11, 2011, in time for the tenth anniversary. We spoke to Arad, now a partner at Handel Architects, for a few minutes yesterday and asked about the long road the project has taken.

How are you spending [today, the 8th anniversary of the September 11th attacks]? I'll be at the memorial ceremony at Zuccotti Park and then across the street to the memorial.

How does it feel with 80% of the steel installed at the memorial site? It's fantastic, it's really great, as far as seeing construction take place on the site. There have been a lot of processes to get everything in place to move forward, but we've really made huge progress in the last year and you really start to see the finish line. We still have a ways to go before we open, but we have a firm deadline and we're going to meet it.

I think that will be a relief to the survivors and victims' families, but I also think there's a lot of public frustration with the lack of progress at the site overall—especially with the dispute over the development of the rest of Ground Zero. Just seeing that something is happening with the Memorial and Museum site, it's like a bright spot. It definitely is. Half of the original site is dedicated to the Memorial; I think when it will be complete, it'll change the equation and make the site feel much further along —and the individual parcels yet to be developed, they won't be this collection of unfinished projects, but rather specific projects that'll move forward on their schedules.

You mention that there's been progress, but it's been a very long five to six years—there's been three governors, all these different personalities in the agencies. Has this been exhausting or is the recent progress giving a new shot of adrenaline to project? It's definitely not a sprint, it's a marathon, so we had to be very dedicated to the project and persevere with a lot of difficulties.

I'm happy with where we are today, and it's in no small part due to the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, who took control of the project and pushed us along and made it possible for us to be as far along as we are now.

Has there been a nice surprise along the way, given all the challenges? There have been countless moments where things could have derailed or could have gone in another direction, and it was through the efforts of many people at the Memorial Foundation, City Hall and other agencies that the project has stayed on track and is moving forward. And I think that, to me, has been the big picture of the last six years of work: It has taken a lot of individual effort on my part, but that alone wouldn't have done it, it's a much larger team working in a concert. And it's not easy with large projects, but the fact that we are as far along as we are is a testament to the fact that we're working together in support of this project.

Tell us about working at the NYC Housing Authority. When I was working at the NYCHA, I was assisting in the design—as a part of a larger team—of these police service areas. Even though I was working for the Housing Authority, there were these police areas initially dedicated to the housing projects that the city was managing and they were carried over to the NYPD.

I like doing work in the public realm. Previous to that, I was working at Kohn Pederson Fox on these very tall skyscrapers all over the world and it's [now] nice to be involved in these projects at home in New York. I'm doing a pro bono project right now, trying to install green roofs on existing school buildings—and not just green roofs but also outdoor classrooms- slash- urban farms- slash- green roofs. They really involve the students in growing vegetables and learning about not just about science but many aspects of their education that can be mediated through the efforts of growing things, health, nutrition, wellness programs... It's been an exciting project.

At your firm, are you working on other projects, or are you focusing on the Memorial? This is the most important project that I'm working on. There are other projects at the firm that I'm working on for many clients, some work is pro bono... I'm trying to be involved with as many projects as I can be, but none of them have the same sort of emotional resonance as the Memorial.

Recently the Memorial Preview Site [a 3,000 square foot storefront on Vesey Street; it features models of the Memorial & Museum as well as some artifacts] opened up. How is it seeing this taste of what visitors will experience when they eventually go to the completed site? You can start to see how people will come to the site, as they come into the Preview Center, and see how they will take things in. I think the Preview Center has been a fantastic tool for the Memorial Foundation to start that dialogue with visitors to the site.

[It's gratifying] to see the models, to see some of the exhibits that will go into the museum, and most of all just to see visitors coming here to find an explanation but also for reflection. That to me is wonderful and I look forward to the day the site is open and we can relive this there.