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Eisenhower Memorial Commission sticks with Frank Gehry design

March 28, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, testifies before the House National Parks, Forest and Public Lands subcommittee hearing last week about Frank Gehry's design for a memorial to her grandfather.
Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, testifies… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington —

The Eisenhower Memorial Commission is sticking with Frank Gehry’s design, despite the Eisenhower family's objections.

Commission members are "unanimous in their total and unqualified support’’ for the Los Angeles architect's vision for the Washington memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commission said in a statement Tuesday.

The commission also expressed "regret and sadness at the tone and nature of the selected comments that have been made on Mr. Gehry’s design for the memorial."

The statement follows a congressional hearing last week at which the former president’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, called for a redesign. She complained, among other things, about the depiction of  Eisenhower as "a dreamy boy," a reference to plans for a statue of a young Eisenhower looking out at stone bas reliefs of his future roles of supreme Allied commander of World War II and president.

"Instead of the focus on Eisenhower, the liberator, the commander who led the largest military operation in the history of warfare, and Eisenhower the president who championed freedom and prosperity, the narrative relies on a romantic Horatio Alger notion, a young Eisenhower viewing his future career," Susan Eisenhower said at the hearing.

The $112-million memorial is planned for an area off the National Mall near the National Air and Space Museum.

Susan Eisenhower also criticized 80-foot-tall columns that would support steel tapestries depicting the Kansas landscape where Eisenhower grew up.

The commission said it welcomed Gehry’s offer to work with the family on changes to images and content, such as how Eisenhower is depicted in the statue.

"We have great respect for the views of the family in this process, and the commission will work to address the outstanding issues that remain,’’ the statement said.

Eisenhower family members said they would have no comment on the commission statement "until we have had the opportunity to confer among ourselves."

Gehry said in a letter to lawmakers last week that the sculpture of a young Eisenhower was intended to inspire children and "give them courage to pursue their dreams and to remind them that this great man started out just like them."

The commission called Gehry’s design "exciting, creative and inspiring. It captures the life and the spirit – and commemorates the historic achievements – of Dwight Eisenhower as one of the greatest generals in human history and one of our finest presidents."

It’s unclear what Congress will do, if anything, about the design. Although final approval of the design rests with the National Capital Planning Commission, funding for a large chunk of the memorial's construction is subject to congressional appropriations.

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