Critics continue assault on Eisenhower memorial design

Rendering of the Eisenhower Memorial from the historic Maryland Avenue cartway by Gehry Partners, LLP.<br>Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Rendering of the Eisenhower Memorial from the historic Maryland Avenue cartway by Gehry Partners, LLP.

Critics of the planned memorial honoring former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington D.C. continued their assault on the design by famed architect Frank Gehry on Tuesday, calling instead for a smaller memorial within an urban park dedicated to the former general.

The plans for the $112 million memorial, slated for a four-acre plot south of the National Mall and near the National Air and Space Museum, drew criticism for the depiction of the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower’s boyhood on steel tapestries supported by 80-foot columns.

“We’re commemorating this man’s achievements as a military leader in a time of crisis and as a president of the United States,” said Roger K. Lewis, a practicing architect and professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland. “It really should be making it very clear that we’re celebrating and honoring this man because of what he did for the country as an adult. We don’t celebrate Lincoln by going out and building log cabins.”

Milton W. Grenfell, vice president of the National Civic Art Society, blasted Gehry’s deconstructionist style and appealed for a monument or plaza designed in the classical style for its timelessness.  

“If it gets littered with big stone monuments and metal screens and God knows what, it’ll be a nightmare,” Grenfell said. “I‘m not for this elephantiasis of memorials going on in this country.”

Both critics, speaking at the National Press Club, called for public input to be allowed on the design, which the Eisenhower family has also said that they don’t much care for.

“We’ve got to get normal people to vote about these things and we’ll get the monuments we need,” Grenfell said.

Gehry has defended his design in a letter to the Eisenhower family, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“My detractors say that I have missed the point, and that I am trying to diminish the stature of this great man,” Gehry wrote. “I assure you that my only intent is to celebrate and honor this world hero and visionary leader who did so much for our country and the world.”

It’s not too late to get Congress to get involved in scrapping the design and coming up with something new, Lewis said.

“What we could still do is create a wonderful park,” Lewis said, “and do a memorial within the park.”

The site was chosen in 2006 as part of the effort to memorialize Eisenhower as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe in World War II and the 34th president. An “e-memorial” has been designed to go along with the site, allowing visitors to access more information and interactive features through smartphones and tablets while at the memorial.

The memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Online: Eisenhower Memorial Commission


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