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Will Ike's family like the new Eisenhower Memorial?

May 15, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveil changes to a planned memorial honoring President Eisenhower in Washington after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.
Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveil changes to a planned… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- After architect Frank Gehry redesigned a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in the nation’s capital, will Ike's family like it now?

Susan Eisenhower complained earlier that a statue of her grandfather as "a dreamy boy"’ looking out at stone bas reliefs of his future roles of supreme Allied commander in World War II and president put more emphasis on his Kansas roots than his military and White House accomplishments.

Gehry's design changes, unveiled at an Eisenhower Memorial Commission meeting Tuesday, now call for limestone sculptures, instead of bas reliefs, of Eisenhower as general and president.

One shows Eisenhower addressing troops before the D-Day invasion. The other, taken from a Yousef Karsh photo, shows the president studying a globe, representing "the scale of his Eisenhower’s responsibility in dealing with the dangerous world of the Cold War,’’ according to the commission.

But the Los Angeles architect stuck with his plans for a statue of a young Eisenhower.

Though he didn’t attend the meeting, Gehry sent a letter saying, "I still believe that the sculpture of Eisenhower as a young man looking out on his future accomplishments is a powerful image" for children who see the memorial, which will be near the National Air and Space Museum.

"It will be an inspiration to these kids," he wrote. There was no immediate comment from Eisenhower family members, who were not present at the meeting.

The $112-million memorial, planned for an area just off the National Mall, still includes 80-foot-tall columns that would support steel tapestries depicting the Kansas landscape where Eisenhower grew up. A stone wall would feature Eisenhower's accomplishments. Yet to be determined excerpts from Eisenhower speeches also are to be featured.

Commission members, who examined models and drawings of the memorial, still must vote on the design. But they expressed support for the changes. Commission Chairman Rocco C. Siciliano, a Los Angeles attorney who served in the Eisenhower administration, expressed hope that the commission would be able to present the new design to the National Capital Planning Commission for final approval at its July meeting.

The commission still needs to raise the money for the project, including seeking funds from Congress.

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