The road to fruition for the Frank Gehry–designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has been full of twists and turns. And now, it seems, the Los Angeles architect’s plans may have reached a dead end. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted seven to three to reject the preliminary site and building plans for the memorial. The vote followed five hours of testimony from the proposal’s supporters and detractors, including House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa spoke against one of the design’s most (but not only) controversial features: the massive stainless-steel “tapestries” meant to depict scenes from Eisenhower’s life.
Despite earlier indications of progress, Frank Gehry’s design for a planned Eisenhower Memorial continues to encounter stumbling blocks. In November the US Commission of Fine Arts asked Mr. Gehry to make eight revisions to the proposal, a request that was then echoed and amplified in January when Congress turned down the Eisenhower Memorial Commission‘s request for $51 million in funding, a denial that was accompanied by a message imploring the architect “to work with all constituencies—including Congress and the Eisenhower family—as partners in the planning and design process.”
Frank Gehry’s design for the four-acre Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. has sparked controversy for its departure from traditional memorial design around the National Mall from the president’s family and others, prompting a third-party design competition and calls for redesign from Congress. Now the beleaguered memorial is one step closer to reality as the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) voted 3-to-1 this month to approve an updated design with additional changes to proposed woven-metal tapestries that have generated most of the public outcry.
A new bill before the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to build consensus to junk Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall. The bill, known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, was proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It cites concerns over the controversial nature of the design and its escalating costs (currently estimated at well over $100 million) and seeks to “facilitate the completion of an appropriate national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Opposition to Gehry’s proposal has been brewing for some time. The antagonists include members of Eisenhower’s family and the National Civic Art Society, which published a 153-page report that called Gehry’s scheme a “travesty” and a “Happy McMonument.”
The AIA feels differently. The association released a statement opposing Rep. Bishop’s bill. The statement does not express an opinion about the value of Gehry’s design, but rather disapproves of the “arbitrary nature” of this exercise of “governmental authority.” Lodge your feelings about the bill and/or Gehry’s design in the comments section of this post.