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Panel Rejects Ike Memorial Design

Thursday, April 10, 2014

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The controversial memorial design honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower has been rejected by a federal panel that oversees planning in the nation's capital.

On April 3, the National Capital Planning Commission disapproved preliminary site and building plans for the Washington, D.C., memorial designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry and submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

Eisenhower
NARA

A five-star general, Dwight D. Eisenhower served as President of the U.S. from 1953 to 1961. The plan for a memorial has been underway for 15 years.

This was the first time the panel had considered the monument design and it was submitted several weeks prior to the planning commission's meeting.

The panel requested that the design team revise the proposal to “address several issues related to the scale and configuration of the large stainless-steel tapestries” that are a primary focus of the design.

The 80-foot-tall tapestries portray the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower’s birthplace and childhood.

The rejection is the latest in a string of setbacks that the memorial project has encountered over the last 15 years.

In a statement, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission said it was "surprised" by the decision and would work with the planning commission to determine the next steps. The design had received preliminary approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in March.

Large Design Falls Short

The Planning Commission said the project plans, as submitted, failed to meet all of the specifications developed during the memorial’s site selection process.

Architect of the Capitol
Architect of the Capitol

The Ike Memorial preliminary design failed to preserve views to and from the U.S. Capitol, according to the panel.

Specifically, it said, the project failed to:

  • Preserve reciprocal views to and from the U.S. Capitol along Maryland Avenue SW;
  • Reflect L’Enfant Plan principles by shaping the memorial site as a separate and distinct public space that complements the Department of Education Headquarters and other surrounding buildings; and
  • Respect the building lines of the surrounding rights-of-way and the alignment of trees along Maryland Avenue SW.

“The Commission continues to support a modern and innovative approach to honoring America’s 34th President,” National Capital Planning Commission Chairman L. Preston Bryant, Jr. said in a statement.

“We encourage the applicant to make changes based upon the feedback provided at today’s meeting, and look forward to seeing a revised preliminary design.”

The panel directed the National Park Service to return every two months, beginning in June, to provide updates on the design modifications as a standing item on its agenda.

Setbacks and Delays

The plan to design, fund and construct a memorial to honor Eisenhower has had a rocky road since 1999, when Congress approved the national memorial with the passage of Public Law 106-79, signed into law by President Clinton.

Ike Memorial Design
eisenhowermemorial.gov / Frank Gehry Design

The Eisenhower Memorial would be located on a four-acre site just off the National Mall in Washington. The project was approved in 1999, but construction has not yet begun.

Most recently, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission was denied federal funds needed to begin construction and its operation budget was cut in half.

Most of the project delays have been due to the memorial’s controversial design.

Gehry won the memorial design competition in 2008, but lawmakers and the Eisenhower family have criticized his design as being too elaborate and expensive. Supporters say that every major memorial in Washington was controversial in the beginning.

Some elements in the Eisenhower Memorial have been modified over the years.

Despite the delays, the commission says it remains dedicated to resolving concerns with the design and moving forward with the project.

About the Design

The Eisenhower Memorial would be located on a four-acre site just off the National Mall in Washington.

According to a project description, the site would be framed by three stainless-steel tapestries featuring scenery from Kansas. The tapestries are to be supported by a colonnade of limestone-clad columns that are about 80 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter.

The memorial’s core would feature limestone bas-relief blocks, free-standing bronze sculpture, and quotations that honor Eisenhower in his roles as President and General, the description said.

A one-story, 2,400-square-foot visitor center would be located on the site’s southeast corner.

 

   

Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Design; Frank Gehry; Funding; Government; Monuments

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