NCAS Publishes Shocking Photos of Eisenhower Memorial “Tapestry,” a Rat’s Nest of Tangled Steel
The National Civic Art Society today published shocking photos — full-size images available here — of mockups of the giant industrial steel “tapestries” planned for the Eisenhower Memorial. (The main “tapestry” — a veritable “Eisen Curtain” — is so large it will dwarf the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles.) The source of the photos is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The images are of mockups displayed to the CFA in August 2011. We do not believe these photos have ever been seen by the public or media — for good reason. They prove that the screens are a rat’s nest of tangled steel, a true maintenance nightmare. By contrast, in renderings of the design, Frank Gehry and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission depict the “tapestries” as mere gauzy photographs.
We are reminded of some lines from Walter Scott:
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
Just imagine how difficult it will be to keep the “tapestries” clean and in good condition. They will deteriorate and are thus impermanent. Yet Congress has called for “an appropriate permanent memorial.” As we document in our report on the Memorial, Fine Arts Commissioner Michael McKinnell said the following about the impermanence of the “tapestries”:
[I]f I can be facetious, the tapestry, when you and I are long gone, will disintegrate and the columns will be left and it will be like [the Roman ruins of] Paestum and it will be marvelous. So I think that is wonderful. I seriously think that is wonderful.
Neither the Eisenhower Memorial Commission nor the National Park Service (who must care for the Memorial for all of perpetuity) has ever disclosed the estimated cost of maintaining the gnarled steel. That substantial cost is not included in the $120 million the Memorial is now estimated to cost. The extra cost will be passed on to the National Park Service, and thence to taxpayers. As Congressmen Dan Lungren and Aaron Schock said in their bold letter rejecting the design:
This proposed design . . . runs a high risk of perpetual cost-increases due to its inordinate technological dependency.
The “tapestry” will decay due to acid rain, caustic bird and other animal droppings, and road salt atomized in the air. Steel welds are particularly susceptible to corrosion and rouging (discoloration), and the Memorial will have hundreds of thousands if not millions of such welds. As anyone who has ever run a dishwasher knows, “stainless” steel is not actually stainless. Furthermore, since the “tapestries” are suspended via tension between the outermost pillars, the wire net can easily be damaged intentionally or accidentally. All a vandal or clumsy maintenance worker requires is a blowtorch or bolt cutter to do serious damage.
Also consider that steel is an industrial, cheap material that is entirely wrong for the Memorial. By tradition, and rightly so, our memorials have been constructed of noble materials such as marble and bronze. They are precious materials worthy of our greatest leaders. Steel is fit for chain-link fences (see Frank Gehry’s prior work with chain-link), not the Eisenhower Memorial.