Despite strong objections from the Eisenhower family, classical architects and many others, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has issued a statement of support for Frank Gehry’s controversial Eisenhower Memorial design. The statement was signed by every member of the commission, including chairman Rocco Siciliano, vice chairman Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), both senators from President Eisenhower’s home state of Kansas, and five other members of Congress.
The commission’s letter reads, “Frank Gehry has followed the direction provided to him by this commission. He has also consulted with the Eisenhower Family. His design for the Memorial is exciting, creative and inspiring. It captures the life and the spirit – and commemorates the historic achievements – of Dwight Eisenhower as one of the greatest generals in human history and one of our finest presidents.”
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The commission selected Gehry in 2010 to design the memorial. Since, opposition against Gehrys design has exponentially grown, with strong criticism from Chicago investment manager and philanthropist Richard Driehaus, neo-traditionalist architect Leon Krier, the National Civic Art Society, the Eisenhower granddaughters and many others.
With the plan to stick with Gehry’s design, the commission’s letter continued to state, “We confirm our selection of him [Gehry], confirm our enthusiastic endorsement of his design concept, and express our regret and sadness at the tone and nature of the selected comments that have been made on Mr. Gehry’s design for the memorial.”
Following the intense March 20th hearing before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on Gehry’s design for the memorial, the commission’s stance was still unclear and negative criticism dominated the media. A letter from Gehry expressed his openness to work with the Eisenhower family and stated that his “intent is to celebrate and honor this world hero and visionary leader.” The commission has made it clear that Eisenhower’s life and professional achievements as a Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and 34th President of the United States of America will be commemorated in the memorial.
Amongst a grove of trees, the four-acre Eisenhower square is described as a “pedestrian experience”. It features a triptych of sculpture and text with “heroic-scale” stone bas relief’s representing Eisenhower as both a president and general positioned on either side of a sculpture of the young Eisenhower. One of the most criticized elements of the design is the woven metal tapestries supported by 25 meter-tall columns that frame the site.
The commission’s statement of support left us with this Eisenhower quote, “For our republic to stay free those among us with the rare gift of artistry must be able to freely use their talent.”
Reference: Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission