“Abigail Ross Goodman, lost her best friend, who’d been on the ninety-sixth floor of the North Tower, when Flight 11, with her father aboard, crashed into it—a meaningful adjacency, to be sure.” – New Yorker
Michael Arad, the designer behind the World Trade Center memorial, describes meaningful adjacencies as a way of organizing names in space to convey a grander meaning (I’m paraphrasing here).
In the case of the WTC memorial, the names of the victims were spatially arranged to add extra layers of meaning to the memorial. In the quote above, Abigail’s best friends name was placed adjacent to her father’s name; this placement created a powerful story that would not be properly conveyed by arranging the memorial names in alpha or random order.
Contrast that with the Vietnam War memorial in DC, which at times, can appear to just be a list of names.
Additionally, think of the disaster it would be to place the names of two people with similar first and last names together…how would a family ever know which name is theirs? The memorial would be rendered meaningless without the proper context.
Meaningful adjacencies solves a real problem.
It creates the context necessary for a memorial to be memorable.