Eisenhower Memorial is it the Right Memorial?

Key arts panel approves Eisenhower Memorial 

The memorial and layout

plan view of memorial

memorial vignette

Eisenhower, the general

Big memorial in Washington DC gets built without a lot of controversy. Not a chance. Nope, no different this time for the planned/proposed memorial for Dwight D. Eisenhower. The President who led America through the “Happy Days” of the 1950’s and was in charge of the “Greatest Generation” during WWII. Including the planning and generalship of the D-Day Invasion.

The brew-ha-ha seems to be over the winning design from Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners of Los Angeles, California. Mr. Gehry is an architect who knows how to push the envelope and is no stranger to controversy, works include The Gehry House, the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, the Walt Disney concert hall in LA, the Center for the Performing Arts in NY, and on and on.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

This time Mr. Gehry doesn’t take on a building with fancy impossible angles or surrealistic curves, no, this time it’s a 4 acre memorial for a Supreme Allied Leader and 2-term President right off the National Mall.

Doing some reading on this it appears that the design has been approved and plans will push forward. But in a town where everything moves at glacial speed, and everyone puts in his, or her .02cents, who knows for sure.

I do know this for a fact though. There was a time when a whole heap of yelling, screaming, eyeball gouging, foot-dragging, name-calling, and bashing galore happened over another memorial in Washington. A memorial designed by a shy, unassuming yet confident student(Yale, undergrad) from Ohio had designed the winning memorial.

The memorial was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the designer was Maya Lin(insightful-interview). I have yet to meet a single soul who has walked down into that Memorial and not been moved.

Designing and Art are funny things. Great artist, architects, and designers still are not appreciated for the ability to visualize the reality, I suppose it’s always been that way and will always be that way. The general public does not trust visionaries, does not trust artist, or envelope-benders, it’s just not in their nature.

Is Gehry’s design an appropriate design to the man, the President? I’m not sure. Personally, I like the design(s) of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and aforementioned Vietnam Memorial. Gehry is going to put a little here, and a little over there, and even include a statue of Ike as a young boy. Is this over complicating the memorial, maybe so.

At some point you have to trust the artist/architect’s vision. Right or wrong, one other thing I know for sure if you let a lot of other people dilute your vision, and add or subtract-then the memorial will have lost.

There are a lot of articles here at eisenhowermemorial(dot)net and I got to say most of those are not to flattering towards the Frank Gehry design. President Eisenhower was reported to be a man of simple taste and not big on pomp and circumstance. Most critics point out the Memorial doesn’t really reflect the man, the general, the President.

The first article below pointed me in the direction of the controversial memorial, the second story is the post from the Eisenhower memorial site. The last article is from the Daily Caller(linked) and this is the story where the family and in particular Pres. Eisenhower’s grand-daughter Susan, is speaking out against the memorial design.

By the way to help clear up some confusion there are two eisenhowermemorial sites linked. One is (dot)gov  everything is hunky dory about the memorial developments and the site is, of course, 100% behind the Gehry proposal. The other, is (dot)net – link is above, and that seems to be a very independent site from the government and that’s where all the critical articles are.

Ike Memorial

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press

Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2013, 5:50 AM EDT

Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013, 5:50 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A powerful commission overseeing civic art and architecture in the nation’s capital voted Thursday to approve the general concept and layout of Frank Gehry’s design for a national memorial honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts reviewed Gehry’s plans for stone or bronze statues of the 34th president, and members voted 3-1 to approve the major elements. One commissioner voted no, saying the memorial’s landscape design needed to be further developed.

The design has drawn criticism from Eisenhower’s family and others for its departure from more classical monument architecture and for the large-scale of some elements.

Gehry has proposed a memorial park with statues and images of Ike as president, as World War II hero and as a young boy from Kansas. The park would be framed by large metal tapestries depicting the Kansas landscape of his boyhood home. The tapestries, in particular, would set this memorial apart from any other in Washington.

The commissioners suggested one significant change in the concept, however. They urged Gehry to remove two smaller side tapestries and instead use only one as a backdrop for the memorial park and statues.

Alex Krieger, an architect and Harvard professor, voiced support for the overall design as an urban park but asked Gehry to rethink the side tapestries because he said they defy Gehry’s attempt to convey Eisenhower’s Midwestern humility. From some angles, “the first impression is not of humility but of bigness,” he said.

Commission Vice Chairman Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk said Krieger’s suggestion would improve the overall design.

“In fact, it may be much stronger in sort of thinking of it as a park primarily with the renewed focus of the objects against the tapestries as a backdrop,” said Plater-Zyberk, an architect who is dean of the University of Miami’s School of Architecture.

Gehry said his team had considered 10 different scenarios for the tapestries and would look at them again. The idea, he said, was to relate to the buildings around the memorial, which include the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air and Space Museum, which all relate to Eisenhower’s legacy.

The arts commission is one of two panels that must approve the design in order for the $142 million project to move forward. The 14-year-old memorial project has been on hold for more than a year after Eisenhower’s family and other groups raised objections to the design.

In 2011, the arts commission granted approval for Gehry’s overall concept, including the tapestries that have drawn objections for their “avant-garde approach.” This was the first review of the planned statues and stone or bronze images of Eisenhower.

The imagery would show Eisenhower as president signing the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to advance equal rights for African-Americans. Other sculptural elements would show the D-Day landing at Normandy in World War II as a backdrop for a statue depicting Eisenhower addressing his troops. A young Eisenhower would look out at his future accomplishments.

“It’s all about him, trying to represent him, who he was: His vision, his words, his life,” Gehry said. “The idea of the boy came from one of his speeches. He talked about Abilene a lot. It’s actually the heartland of America.”

Eisenhower’s family and other critics have called for a simple memorial. They have objected to showing Eisenhower as a boy and to the metal tapestries showing his Kansas home. Eisenhower’s grandson, however, previously served on the memorial commission that selected Gehry for the project.

No family members attended the review Thursday. Still, three other critics voiced their opposition.

Justin Shubow of a group called the National Civic Art Society said showing the former president and general as a young boy failed to convey any character or gravitas.

“He inspires not feelings of awe, but of aw, shucks,” Shubow told the commission.

Milton Grenfell, from the same group, told the commission Gehry’s design was random and chaotic.

“So how does a normal person perceive chaos?” Grenfell said. “We call it ugliness.”

A recently published 100-year history of the commission’s work, entitled “Civic Art,” shows national memorial projects are almost always controversial, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Eisenhower Memorial must be reauthorized by Congress in order to stay on track this year. A bill in the House, though, has called for it to be redesigned. An analysis of that idea by the Congressional Budget Office last week found that scrapping the current concept and developing an alternate plan through a new design competition would cost $17 million.

via WOODTV – Eisenhower Memorial design goes to key DC panel | woodtv.com.

Memorial vignette

The Frank Gehry Design

Commission Approves Memorial Design Refinements

By unanimous vote, the Dwight D.  Eisenhower Memorial Commission approved important new modifications to the proposed memorial design at its meeting on June 19, 2013. Architect Frank Gehry, who has been working steadily to refine the preliminary design in order to incorporate comments from the public — including some suggestions from members of the Eisenhower family — unveiled his latest work at the Commission’s meeting.

One of the recent developments is a new image of Eisenhower as president: an artistic interpretation of Eisenhower signing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation to be passed by Congress
since Reconstruction. Another refinement to the memorial design is the juxtaposition of three-dimensional sculpted figures and bas-reliefs, which are sculpted panels. For example, a sculpture of Ike addressing the
troops on the eve of D-Day will now have a new backdrop: a bas-relief panel depicting a beach landing with troops coming ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In addition, changes have been made to a sculpted image of Eisenhower as a young man. The current proposal calls for a statue of Eisenhower as a teenager, seated on the memorial’s overlook wall in a pose that suggests he is looking into the distance at his future monumental achievements. The younger Eisenhower serves both to unify the memorial’s composition and as a metaphor it inspires the “American Dream” for young memorial visitors.

Architect Frank Gehry told the members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission that he feels “more humbled than ever” by what he continues to learn about Dwight D. Eisenhower’s contributions to American life. The next step is to submit the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s approved memorial design to the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission for their approvals.

For more images and further information on the current design, please visit the EMC website at eisenhowermemorial.gov

Titled: An eyesore for the national mall

However this story from the family tells a different story about how they feel the memorial is over-complicated, much too expensive and would not meet with the wishes of former President Eisenhower.

Eisenhower family objects to expensive, garish DC monument

Posted By Will Rahn 

The family of the late Dwight Eisenhower has come out against a planned memorial to the former president that they believe is inappropriate, unsustainable and not in keeping with his wishes.

Plans for the memorial, designed by architect Frank Gehry, call for a life-size statue of a barefoot, seven-year-old Ike surrounded by eight-story-tall pillars. The pillars hold up basketball court-sized steel mesh tapestries that show images of barren Kansas plains.

The memorial will cover a four-acre space just off the National Mall, and is expected to cost taxpayers roughly $100 million.

“We were under the impression that the design that Mr. Gehry put together was kind of a work in progress,” Susan Eisenhower, the president’s granddaughter, told The Daily Caller. “They changed the concept rather significantly in 2011, and then the next thing we heard it was on the fast track for approval.”

Susan Eisenhower said her grandfather, whom she knew well, would have hated the design.

“[The memorial] could be modern, but it needs to be simple, elegant and sustainable,” she said. “Because that is where we are in our history, and that is how he wanted to be remembered.”

“We were there for his deathbed wishes,” she continued. “I know this. All of us in our family are quite confident on this point.”

Yet despite the family’s objections, Gehry’s plans for the memorial have progressed, prompting Susan’s sister Anne Eisenhower to write to the National Capital Planning Commission on the family’s behalf.

In her letter, Anne argued that the current design does not meet Congress’ criteria for a durable memorial celebrating the president’s accomplishments. She also argued that the mesh tapestries are bound to collect blowing debris that could easily make the memorial look “dated or uncared for in a matter of years.”

“The Eisenhower family is requesting an indefinite delay in the design approval and ground breaking — pending further discussions with the family significantly changing the concept, scale and scope of the memorial,” the letter read.

David Eisenhower, Susan and Anne’s brother, resigned from the commission overseeing the memorial to protest Gehry’s design. But so far the family’s complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

“Contrary to what certain people are saying, and I recognize that some people don’t think the family has much of a say in this, but we’re really representing [President Eisenhower’s] interests,” Susan Eisenhower said. “All of us knew him very well. All of us were on the verge of marriages when he died. I was in my thirties when my grandmother died. We lived on an adjacent farm. I mean, we knew them very well.”

The Eisenhower family is not alone in their objections to the current design. Writing in National Review, conservative commentator and activist George Weigel blasted the planned memorial as a “travesty” that was “steamrolled through the federal bureaucracy.” And National Civic Art Society president Justin Shubow has written a book-length denunciation of the project.

“I can’t find anyone who likes this design,” Shubow told TheDC. “Does anyone think it’s beautiful or uplifting?”

Shubow’s organization now has a website cataloging the complaints over Gehry’s design and how he was chosen as the memorial’s architect.

Typically, memorial design competitions can be entered by just about anyone. Maya Lin, the architect behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was an undergraduate at Yale when she submitted her iconic design. But Gehry was chosen after 44 other entries were submitted — and he was not required to propose an actual design.

“We wonder whether there was a true competition at all,” Shubow told TheDC.

The National Civic Art Society and the Eisenhower’s also complain that the man responsible for constructing the statue of Eisenhower as a boy, Charles Ray, is famous for his sculptures of group sex and naked children.

“Without making any comments about Charles Ray’s artistic following — I’m sure he has a significant one, Frank Gehry speaks very highly of him — but I think it’s not hard to see that he is absolutely not the person who should sculpt Dwight Eisenhower,” Susan Eisenhower said.

For now, critics of the project are trying to publicize their objections to its design. A National Planning Commission meeting has been scheduled for March to discuss the memorial. The meeting is open to the public.

“The entire process — the competition and design itself — has flown completely under the radar,” Shubow said. “We think that as soon as Congress and the American people see what’s going on, they’re going to share our disgust.”

Both Daniel Feil, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s executive architect, and John Bowers, Gehry’s representative on the project, did not respond to TheDC’s requests for comment on this story.

General Eisenhower

Eisenhower, the great general

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