Eisenhower Family in Memorial Design Deadlock
The Eisenhower family is not happy.
After months of back-and-forth with Frank Gehry, Dwight D. Eisenhower's family is still critical of the architect's plans for the Washington, D.C. memorial honoring America's 34th president.
On Wednesday, they said they were pleased with certain aspects of Gehry's modified design, but still had objections with others, namely large metal tapestries depicting scenes of the Kansas plains.
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Changes that have been made so far include added statues of the late president at different stages of his career, which the family called "positive and welcomed." These were included in response to criticism of the sculpture of the president as a young man, inspired by his speech post-WWII where he reminisced about his days as a "barefoot boy."
However, they were still unsatisfied.
"The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive," said a statement from the family posted Wednesday on Susan Eisenhower's blog. "Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs. This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial's 'backdrop,' is impractical and unnecessary for the conceptual narrative. For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them."
"The imagery on the tapestry sustaining the unifying theme of Eisenhower's roots in the heartland -- Eisenhower was so proud to grow up in Kansas -- leaving out this imagery would mean omitting an important part of his story," he said. "I think the imagery has a peacefulness and gravitas to it that creates a suitable environment whether you are inside the park or just passing by."
Gehry intentionally developed the tapestries as part of his design process in order for the memorial to be framed by historic beauty and not "ugly office buildings."
The chairman of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, Rocco Siciliano, responded on Wednesday to the family's statement.
"Moving forward, I believe we can allay your concerns about the sustainability of the tapestries" with tests of their durability, he wrote, adding that the commission wants to build the memorial "in a timely manner so it can be enjoyed by the 'Greatest Generation' before passing it on to our children and our children's children."
The commission is expected to decide on a final design this summer and the groundbreaking is scheduled for late 2012.
The first presidential memorial of the 21st century is planned for a four-acre site at the National Mall. It will rely on private fundraising and Congressional money and is expected to cost approximately $142 million.
The memorial has been 12 years in the making and is expected to be completed by 2015, but at this rate, we may have to wait another 12 years until Gehry's vision will be realized.