Eisenhower Family Calls for Timeout in Approval of Memorial

Frank Gehry and Robert Wilson Disuss the Eisenhower Memorial at the National Archives on Oct. 5, 2011

On October 6, 2011, The Washington Post reported that the Eisenhower family had called for a timeout in the approval of Frank Gehry’s design for the national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower:

At a public conversation Wednesday at the National Archives, Frank Gehry encountered hostile questions from audience members about his designs for a memorial to Dwight David Eisenhower planned for a prominent spot on Independence Avenue, just south of the Mall.

And Thursday, he received pointed queries from members of the National Capital Planning Commission, one of the oversight groups that must approve Gehry’s vision before it can be built. Asked about Gehry’s design, three of the former president’s granddaughters issued a statement expressing concern about the “concept for the memorial, as well as the scope and scale of it.”

The controversy, both in the Eisenhower family and in the public, comes as Gehry’s concept for a memorial to the 34th president has been focused on what he calls “the barefoot boy” from Kansas. . . .

The focus on modesty is among the general concerns raised by audience members at the National Archives panel. Justin Shubow . . . of the National Civic Art Society, which last spring held an independent competition to solicit more traditional ideas for the memorial, quoted one of Gehry’s philosophical statements about design: “Life is chaotic, dangerous and surprising. Buildings should reflect that.”

Shubow says that philosophy should disqualify Gehry from designing a memorial to a man of Eisenhower’s accomplishment and seriousness.

“A life-size sculpture of a barefoot boy — if that’s how we want to memorialize Eisenhower, that’s a travesty,” Shubow said. Other members of the audience accused Gehry of designing a “postmodern” memorial that doesn’t fit with other memorials and architecture in Washington. One questioner called the design “the emperor’s new clothes.”

A video of Gehry’s October 5, 2011 talk at the National Archives is available on C-SPAN’s website.  The hostile questions begin at the 46:00 mark.  You can find a partial transcript of the event here.

One Response to “Eisenhower Family Calls for Timeout in Approval of Memorial”
  1. Diane Metzger says:

    A timeout is in order. I am a retired RN, age 71, & remember & respect the great family name. The present design is not a fitting tribute to President Eisenhower. The goal should be more traditional ideas. I have just read about this today, 1/24/12. Will spread the info & my prayers are with you all.

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