Eisenhower Memorial Materials Testing Suggests it Is Impermanent and a Trap for Debris

Debris Being Introduced to the Eisenhower Memorial Tapestry Mockup; Source: National Capital Planning Commission

A study which has since disappeared from the National Capital Planning Commission’s website concludes that materials for the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial may be impermanent and a trap for unsightly debris. The law requires that the Eisenhower Memorial be permanent and durable.

The National Civic Art Society has republished the missing report at http://www.eisenhowermemorial.net/docs/NCPC_eisenhower_memorial_tapestry_testing.pdf [24 meg PDF].

In another major setback for Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) delayed its review of the planned Memorial and took the highly unusual step of releasing the Tapestry Engineering and Technical Data Summary on its website.

That crucial report, however, has since been removed from their website. According to NCPC, the General Services Administration requested that the document be taken down due to its sensitivity. But could it be that the report is an embarrassment for the Memorial’s backers?

It includes disturbing findings suggesting that the tapestry is both impermanent and a trap for unsightly debris. As required by law, the Eisenhower Memorial must be permanent and durable. According to p. 566 of the report:

Prior to GALE’s arrival, Gilbane had embedded some material in the tapestry which consisted of some tissue paper and newspaper. Reportedly, the material was left in place for several days to become wetted and allowed to dry. Upon GALE’s arrival, GALE requested that some wetted toilet paper be thrown at the tapestry. . . . Prior to initiating any testing, GALE provided a close inspection of the tapestry. . . . GALE noticed some fraying of the strands at various locations. GALE suspected these frays of possibly catching and holding debris. Some minor discoloration of the stainless steel wire was noted at weld locations. [emphasis added]

NCAS calls attention to the fact that this damage has already occurred even though the mockup was exposed to the elements for only a brief period of time.

The report continues on p. 567:

GALE does see a concern for wetted toilet paper becoming embedded into the tapestry or toilet paper balls being thrown into the tapestry from ground level. Today’s testing indicated that this material must be removed using a pressure washer.

Note that the debris testing appears to have focused on the loosely woven sections of the tapestry, not the most densely tangled sections, which are perhaps more likely to trap debris.

Despite weighing in at 527 pages, the technical report is not yet complete. Moreover, it does not appear that it will ever include an examination of the effects of acidic bird droppings and other animal waste on the “stainless” tapestry.

“The technical findings released so far are a huge red flag,” says NCAS chairman Justin Shubow. “They are evidence that the so-called tapestry will physically deteriorate, discolor, and become filled with garbage. Even if the Eisenhower Memorial Commission can show that the tapestry will last a mere 100 years—their previously stated goal—they cannot prove that it will be permanent. We do not believe that a national memorial is the proper place for untried experimental technology. We have all the more reason for caution when considering that a number of Frank Gehry’s previous experimental works have suffered severe design flaws, including leaking water, focusing sunlight onto neighboring buildings, and allowing dangerous snow and ice to fall near pedestrians.”

“The technical report also details the pressure-washing and other maintenance the tapestry will require for all of perpetuity,” he adds. “This extra expense is not included in the Memorial’s estimated $142 million cost.”

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

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