Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial a Go, Geffen Contemporary Remodel Next?

As Eisenhower Memorial gets approval, Gehry look to LA.

A model of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC.
Photo: © Gehry & Partners.

It’s official: after two years, Frank Gehry‘s controversial design for the planned Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, has been approved by the United States Commission of Fine Art. The New York Times reports that the project will break ground next year.

The National Capital Planning Commission had already given its blessing to Gehry’s revised design, which addressed concerns about sight lines of the Capitol Building for nearby buildings, earlier this month (see “Will Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial Design Finally Get Built?“).

After previously threatening to remove his name from the design when a suggested revision attempted to remove all of the memorial’s steel tapestries depicting the Kansas countryside where Eisenhower grew up (the final plan incorporates just one, rather than the three initially envisioned), Gerhy seems pleased that things are finally on track. “Capturing the life and legacy of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century has been a unique honor,” he said in a statement. “I appreciate the approval.”

Of course, a major hurdle for the project still remains. For two consecutive years, Congress has withheld funding. In April, a draft budget from the House suggested a new design competition while zeroing out operating funds. Nevertheless, with official approval finally in hand, the memorial will finally move forward, with the Arts Commission reviewing elements of the design ahead of construction.

“It’s good to see the work that has gone into preparing the design for approvals now yielding positive results and moving the project forward,” Rocco Siciliano, the chairman of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, told the Times.

More Delayed Gehry Projects

This isn’t the first long-delayed Gehry project that is finally coming to fruition. After more than a decade, Paris’s Fondation Louis Vuitton will finally open its Gehry-designed building on October 27 (see “Take a Sneak Peak at the Fondation Louis Vuitton“). On the other hand, the architect was recently let go from the planned World Trade Center Arts Complex, to which he had long been attached (see “Frank Gehry Fired from World Trade Center Arts Complex Job“).

Meanwhile, Gehry may soon have a West Coast project in the works as well. The Art Newspaper reports that Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, director Philippe Vergne has approached the starchitect about getting involved in renovating the museum’s downtown Geffen Contemporary branch.

The 55,000-square-foot space was formerly a warehouse, until it was converted into gallery space by Gehry in the 1980s. Now, it is in need of an upgrade to its climate control system, which is currently not up to snuff for many art loans.

“Philippe asked me to help him. I don’t think they have a lot of money at this point,” Gehry told TAN. “He asked about an upgrade of the entrance and some work on the inside. I guess they’re going to try to [install] mechanical systems.”

As for Vergne, he describes talks with Gerhy as being in the “very early stages,” telling TAN “it is a priority and a necessity to make the Geffen a true public space and to use the plaza and the canopy as a civic, urban, and spontaneous gathering place for our visitors and for the citizens of downtown. It should be a town square.”

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