WTOP: Congress Enters Eisenhower Memorial Debate

WTOP radio reports:

Congress enters Eisenhower memorial debate

Saturday – 6/2/2012, 7:45am  ET

WASHINGTON – Congress is wading into the dispute over the memorial for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is expected to be built near the National Mall.

The Eisenhower family doesn’t like Frank Gehry’s design, even after changes, and California Rep. Darrell Issa is demanding more answers.

At a subcommittee hearing, the National Capital Planning Commission’s Preston Bryant says he also has his own questions about key parts of the design, like metal mesh scrims. Bryant questions whether the materials are designed to last and will stand the test of decades.

“The architects are continuing to work and to test the materials to answer those questions,” Bryant says.

Engineers want to make sure the permanent structure will hold up for a century, but National Civic Art Society head Justin Shubow says that is not good enough.

“One hundred years is far short of permanent,” Shubow says.

He calls the design a postmodern eyesore, and says it clashes with the tradition of presidential memorials and D.C.’s classical style.

WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow Max and WTOP on Twitter.

The station later aired a follow-up report:

Memorials and the Mall: Congress dives into the debate

Saturday – 6/2/2012, 5:53pm  ET

WASHINGTON – Is the National Mall a place to admire monuments or a place to learn about the people they honor?

Janice View, a native Washingtonian and an educator, testified at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on the future of the Mall.

“It is not enough to drive 8th graders 1,000 miles to stand at the base of a monument and say, ‘Kids, this is important because it is here,” she says.

She says she’d like to see more of the true history taught there, not just idealized versions. But Justin Shubow with the National Civic Art Society says they don’t want too much disagreement in the memorials.

“We want them to say a few simple things, that we should honor them and reflect on what they did for us,” Shubow says. “What we don’t want to see is the so-called brown bag memorial, where every visitor brings whatever interpretation they want to it.”

The hearing also addressed the now-crowded National Mall’s future. The National Capital Planning Commission’s Preston Bryant says there are dozens of possible locations in all quadrants of the city.

“New cultural projects in these areas can serve as anchors that spark investment, add high-quality public spaces and buildings, and provide destinations that introduce visitors to new parts of the city,” Bryant says.

View says adding context with informed teachers on site is the best way to use the memorials we already have.

“A person or event worthy of representation is also worthy of interpretation that brings the stones alive,” she says.

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