Eisenhower Family Gives Frank Gehry Memorial Their Stamp of Approval

The family requires some changes to the architect's design.

A rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Photo: Gehry Partners.
A rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

Good news for Frank Gehry‘s long-delayed Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC: the late president’s family is finally on board.

Reuters reports that the family has formally withdrawn its opposition to Gehry‘s controversial design, in exchange for several modifications. Congress first created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission in 1999.

In a letter, Susan Eisenhower of the Eisenhower Institute told former secretary of state James Baker III, who sits on the memorial advisory commission, that she and her siblings “support your proposal,” which she described as a “compromise” that “will pay special tribute to the World War II and Cold war veterans who, under Eisenhower’s leadership, fought and won the peace.”

A rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

A rendering of Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

According to ArchDaily, the memorial’s massive steel mesh tapestries (long a point of contention due to earlier plans that would have blocked some views of the Capitol building) will now depict the beaches of Normandy in honor of Eisenhower’s successful D-Day invasion during World War II. The planned scenes of Eisenhower’s Kansas boyhood will be incorporated into the memorial elsewhere via a new element.

The design has seen its fair share of detractors: George F. Will called the proposed memorial a “monstrosity” in an editorial for the Washington Post last year, describing the project’s long period on the drawing board as a “saga of arrogance and celebrity worship.” The National Review‘s Catesby Leigh went one step further, arguing that “Congress needs to kill Frank Gehry’s awful Eisenhower Memorial once and for all.” Just two weeks ago, 58 generals and admirals called for a new design competition to replace Gehry’s proposal, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

A rendering of the steel mesh tapestry in Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission.

A rendering of the steel mesh tapestry in Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission.

Even the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the memorial committee’s activities, has been critical, issuing a 2014 report 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.” At the time, $41 million had already been spent on the project, including more than $16.4 million paid to Gehry’s firm.

Even with the Eisenhowers now lending their support, the memorial is far from universally accepted. “It is extremely disappointing that the Eisenhower family has come to accept the enormous metal tapestry that will, if built, be forever be known as the ‘Iron Curtain.’ The symbolism could not be worse,” Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, told Reuters.

A rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

A rendering of Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

There have been positive developments for the project in recent years, with actor Tom Hanks joining the memorial team, and the National Capital Planning Commission and the United States Commission of Fine Art giving the monument an official green light. It remains to be seen whether familial support will give the memorial the push it needs to finally begin construction. Reuters notes that the current House of Representative spending bill does not offer funds to the monument, due in part to the family’s opposition.

A rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

A rendering of Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.


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