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Excerpts from the E-Sylum: Design and Perspective on the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Congressional Medal – November 30, 2014

Each week, CoinWeek, in collaboration with the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, brings you a highlighted feature from the current volume of the E-Sylum eNewsletter

Steve D’Ippolito submitted these thoughts on perspective in medal design, inspired by Dick Johnson’s article last week. -Wayne Homren, Editor

Lines of perspective demonstrating the “extradimensional” design of the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Congressional Medal obverse

Although the New York 9/11 medal is a striking design, the faulty perspective isn’t properly executed–the artist took quite a liberty here. (I am sure it was deliberate; proper perspective has been understood since the Renaissance.) No matter what type of perspective is employed, all of a group of parallel lines need to converge on one point, called the vanishing point. The towers being vertical lines, their vertical lines are parallel and should converge. Yet on the medal, the left tower’s vertical lines converge lower left, while the tower on the right, whose vertical lines should be parallel to the other tower’s lines, instead has its lines converging towards the upper right.

Here are a couple of photographs to show how it works in reality. The first is taken from between a pair of skyscrapers, though they aren’t the WTC:



Note that the lines don’t even have to be drawn off the corners of the building–ANY vertical line, even those between columns of windows, will converge to the same point because it’s parallel to every other vertical line.

And here’s the actual WTC, though not taken from a point between the towers.




In this case the point of convergence or vanishing point is outside the photo.

Whatever one may think of the merits of the medal design, one thing it surely isn’t is an example of vaulted perspective because it’s not even remotely done properly. I’m sure the artist did this deliberately, because it’s simply too glaring a mistake. While I heartily endorse the desire to memorialize what was destroyed on that awful day (I bought one of the medals myself), I found the incorrect perspective distracting. It suggests to me the towers caught in the act of toppling almost toward each other (even though they didn’t).
Which, come to think of it, could be exactly the impression the artist was trying to make.

You know, I thought something was a little off about that design, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I think Steve nailed it. -Wayne

On a related note, Dave Lange writes:

In reading Dick Johnson’s comments about the Fallen Heroes Medal, he commented that it depicts the new towers rising. It appears to me, however, that it actually depicts the old Towers 1 and 2 that were lost on 9-11.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:



Click here to read the rest of this week’s issue of the E-Sylum eNewsletter


  1. Dear Coinweek Editors,

    I responded to Mr.D’Ippolito’s remarks back in December of ’14 in a subsequent issue of
    E-Sylum .I would like to reiterate my response for the Coinweek readership.
    Thank you,
    Joel Iskowitz

    Here’s is designer Joel Iskowitz’ response. -Editor

    I am appreciative of Mr.D’Ippolito’s comments, calling my design a striking one. He is correct in stating that I “took quite a liberty here.” Let me assure you that the liberty I took with traditional perspective was entirely purposeful.

    I am fully aware of the rules of academic perspective. To the extent that these lines evoke the twin towers (which was one of my intended concepts albeit a secondary one), I deliberately inverted the lines on the left which are facing downward ( inverted vaulted perspective or aerial perspective) to indicate great, unspeakable loss.

    This was meant to be symbolic of the fact that that day, as Americans our world was literally turned upside down.

    Juxtaposed, are the lines on the right which rise upward (vaulted perspective) which are intended to be emblematic of hope and perseverance, rising above the these tragic events.

    Furthermore I wanted to create a sense of vertigo to underscore our collective sense of disorientation and confusion on that morning when we experienced and witnessed unimaginable horror.

    In that regard I am encouraged that Mr.D’Ippolito felt distracted, as this is certainly not a design intended to merely reproduce the towers as they stood before we were attacked.

    I appreciate that Mr.D’Ippolito seems to understand that this was precisely the concept I was trying to convey.

    Mr. Lange makes a valid point as well, as the twin towers are evoked as a leitmotif, but again the inverted tower on the left is about the collapse and loss, while the tower on the right is about rebuilding, renewal and the undaunted American spirit.

    Dick Johnson was entirely correct in referring to the rising of the new tower which the lines on the right are meant to evoke as well.

    While we as a nation will rise above this infamous day, we will “Always Remember” the innocent victims and the heroes that lost their lives.

    I hope everyone understands the symbolism of the placement of the flight numbers and the rose on the parapet wall.

    To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
    FALLEN HEROES MEDAL DESIGN: VAULTED PERSPECTIVE (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n48a13.html)
    ON PERSPECTIVE IN MEDAL DESIGN (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n49a12.html)


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