Controversy surrounding the President Eisenhower Memorial ensues
Despite the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s unanimous vote and the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts’ 3-1 vote in favor of architect Frank Gehry‘s design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial this past summer, additional concerns continue to be raised today.
Just last week, The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) met yet again to review the design. Although the CFA already approved the general plan for the memorial in summer 2012, there is now apprehension among the commissioners regarding the size, construction, and durability of the 80 foot tall metal tapestries that define the edifice.
Concerns over the supporting columns and the surrounding landscape have also been openly expressed.
The general consensus among commission members was that although the metal columns certainly have a large presence in the memorial, they are unsuccessful in establishing a defined space. “I’m not convinced the aggregation of elements creates a memorial experience, ” explained commission member Elizabeth Meyers. Some even expressed their negative opinions towards the general aesthetics of the design. Alex Krieger, another commission member, confessed, “[The columns] might be giant chimneys that might be disguising an underground power plant.”
John Bowers, a partner in Gehry’s architecture firm, disagrees. “The size and scale is very large,” he said in defense of the design. “The columns and tapestry are means for us to organize the site and create space.” In response to any questions of the tangible quality of the metal tapestries, Bowers also assured the commission that there will be continued material testing in preparation for the 2014 presentation of the plan.
The CFA is not the only one to critique the overall design of the memorial: President Eisenhower’s only surviving child has also criticized Gehry’s design. Calling the plan “off base” in the context of the nation’s current economic situation. John S.D. Eisenhower suggests a more practical and cost-effective alternative. “Taxpayers and donors alike will be better served with an Eisenhower Square that is a green open space with a simple statue in the middle, and quotations from [the president’s] important sayings,” says Eisenhower. The cost of the construction of Gehry’s current design for the memorial is estimated at $142 million.
Once completed, the Eisenhower Memorial, as it stands in the current plans, will be situated in the center of Eisenhower Square, a four-acre urban park located at the base of Capitol Hill and across from Independence Avenue. A bronze statue of the 34th President will stand in front of a bas-relief that illustrates the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to embody both his legislative and military accomplishments. Also included in the design plan is the LBJ Promenade, serving as a pedestrian street leading to an entrance to the nearby Department of Education building. The memorial, once expected to open Memorial Day 2015, is now anticipated to open in 2017 at the earliest.
Photo: David Jones via Flickr