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Ike Memorial Rework Gets Family Approval

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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More than a decade in the making, the Frank Gehry-designed Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial project looks to be back on track, as family of the late president have agreed on a design for the D.C. monument.

In a process befitting a former president and five-star Army general, reports related that former Secretary of State James Baker was involved in negotiations between the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and Eisenhower’s grandchildren, who were among those who objected to the original design put forward by Frank Gehry Partners.

Eisenhower Memorial design rendering
Design renderings: Eisenhower Memorial Commission

The memorial to the 34th president and supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, original design pictured, could still be completed in time for its desired opening date, June 6, 2019.

According to reports, the memorial to the 34th president and supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, planned for a site at the base of Capitol Hill, could still be completed in time for its desired opening date, June 6, 2019—the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Memorial History

The memorial was first authorized in 1999, and after the site was selected and preliminary guidelines were set in 2006, a design competition culminated in the choice of famed American architect Gehry, announced in 2009.

But many were displeased with Gehry’s first design for the memorial, and in 2013, with the memorial’s authorization set to expire, some in Congress threatened to scrap Gehry’s plan altogether when it re-authorized the project, and restart the design process entirely.

Metal tapestry, part of Eisenhower Memorial plan

The metal tapestry wall, according to reports, will remain in the design as it’s been revised.

Criticisms of the design itself included that the location wasn’t sufficient, that the memorial was too expansive, and that a metal tapestry wall would look like “an iron curtain,” and might not be durable enough. Some, including members of Congress, questioned the design contest as well as the costs associated with the project.

Family Concerns

Members of the Eisenhower family wrote in 2012 that they believed the memorial, as designed by Gehry, was “not fulfilling its Congressional mandate,” in that it concentrated less on Eisenhower’s accomplishments as general and president, instead depicting a “barefoot boy from Kansas.”

The family took issue with the fact that the memorial would “have its ‘back’ to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education” building, and argued that the memorial relied too heavily on interactive technology to tell the president’s story, raising the need for regular technological updates over time.

In 2014, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources issued a 58-page report on the process, titled A Five-Star Folly: An Investigation into the Cost Increases, Construction Delays, and Design Problems that Have Been a Disservice to the Effort to Memorialize Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The committee blasted the project, which it said had spent $41 million with nothing to show, and had failed to raise funds at the rate it needed to.

Design Changes

The tapestry wall, according to reports, will remain in the design as it’s been revised. There will be an addition that depicts the landing at Normandy on D-Day, though aspects will still point to Eisenhower’s Kansas roots, including the incorporation of the quote, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

“While some of us may have had other preferences in the past, all of us support your proposal,” Susan Eisenhower wrote on behalf of her siblings, according to The New York Times. The paper reports that Gehry has agreed to the modifications, though he was unavailable for comment.

As for the concerns about the metal tapestry and the complaints the family had about it: “Nobody in life [gets] everything exactly the way they want, nor should they,” Susan Eisenhower said, according to Architectural Record.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Color + Design; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Frank Gehry; Government contracts; Latin America; Monuments; North America

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