Eisenhower Memorial Design Receives Major Setback as National Capital Planning Commission Delays Review Again

Photo 8: Loose wire braids in the Eisenhower Memorial Tapestry Mockup; Source: National Capital Planning Commission
Photo 8: Loose wire braids in the Eisenhower Memorial Tapestry Mockup; Source: National Capital Planning Commission

Photo 8: Loose wire braids in the Eisenhower Memorial Tapestry Mockup; Source: National Capital Planning Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 15, 2013

CONTACT: [email protected] or (202) 670-1776

Eisenhower Memorial Design Receives Major Setback as National Capital Planning Commission Again Delays Review

In another resounding setback for Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) yet again has delayed its review of the proposed avant-garde design. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission (EMC) had requested that the Memorial be placed on the agenda for the March NCPC meeting, but NCPC denied that request. Pushing ahead despite overwhelming public opposition, EMC has been attempting to obtain NCPC’s preliminary approval of the design. (The design still has not received approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.)

This is the third such embarrassing NCPC delay for the design. In September 2012, NCPC denied EMC’s request to place the Memorial on the agenda. And before that, in June 2012, the EMC announced that it was pulling its proposal from the agency’s agenda so that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar could review Gehry’s design.

As the National Civic Art Society reported on Tuesday, EMC’s recent submission to NCPC contained a technical report [PDF here] that raised numerous red flags about the experimental design’s projected durability, safety, and cleanliness. In the report, the Smithsonian’s preservation expert expressed her concern about the likelihood of corrosion in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of welds in the gigantic steel “tapestry,” which is the most visible part the design. The Department of the Army’s materials expert even suggested building duplicate tapestry screens to serve as replacements when the original screens decay and break—this, despite the fact that the screens are the most expensive component of the Memorial, which is now estimated to cost $142 million.  That same expert also called attention to “potential releases of heavy ice sections that could injure memorial site visitors or passing pedestrians . . . .”

The next opportunity for the Memorial to be reviewed by NCPC is in April.  However, the EMC’s 10-year congressional authorization expires on May 5th.  Given the uncertainty surrounding what Congress will decide to do then, NCPC has all the more reason to continue to delay reviewing the project. NCPC must also remember that in August 2012, Senator Daniel Inouye, then-Vice Chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, internally wrote to EMC, “given the continued opposition with the Eisenhower family, I question whether we can ever resolve the differences . . . and whether it would be in our best interest to continue to move forward.”

The National Civic Art Society lauds NCPC’s decision to delay approval of the Memorial design. According to its chairman Justin Shubow, “The more time passes, the more time the American people have to stop this gargantuan mistake from permanently scarring the National Mall. The sooner we stop wasting public money on testing and marketing this disliked proposal, the sooner we can design and build a dignified, fitting, and permanent memorial to President Eisenhower. What we need is to start afresh with a new design competition—one that is democratic, transparent, open to all ideas and fair.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.