President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family has released their thoughts on the latest design changes proposed by Frank Gehry that were released in May. Most changes were “positive and welcomed” by the family, however they remain unhappy with the metal tapestries that surround the memorial. Gehry appeased the families concerns with the memorials original focus on the Kansas roots of Eisenhower by replacing the carved images on the stone reliefs with two sets of 9-foot statues that depict Eisenhower as a World War II hero and president. These statues join the remaining life-sized statue of Eisenhower as a boy, which remains in the center of the memorial. More about the family’s response after the break.
Amid the US and global debt crisis, the Eisenhower family has asked that memorial reflects the important values of being “simple, sustainable, and affordable.” They stated, “These values were dominant after World War II, as the country, under Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership, built a modern industrial infrastructure and emerged as a global superpower and the leader of the free world.” Their main complaint still lies with the scope and scale of the “metal scrims”, which they believe “remain controversial and divisive”. Eisenhower Family stated: “Not only are they [the metal tapestries] the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs. This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial’s “backdrop,” is impractical and unnecessary for the conceptual narrative. For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them.” In the current design, the transparent woven metal tapestries frame Eisenhower Square and are supported by 80-foot-tall columns. Images on the tapestry depict the plains of the American Midwest, revealing elements of Eisenhower’s home in Abilene, Kansas. Gehry believes these images represent Eisenhower’s values and humble beginnings, and that omitting them would leave out an important part of his story.
As reported on the Huffington Post, Rocco Siciliano, chairman of the presidentially appointed Eisenhower Memorial Commission replied to the family Wednesday. He expressed his delight that the family is welcoming changes and stated, “moving forward, I believe we can allay your concerns about the sustainability of the tapestries.” Gehry Partners are currently testing the materials against corrosive conditions. The 12-year-old memorial effort will rely on private fundraising and money from Congress. Organizers hope to complete it by 2015 at a cost of about $142 million. Reference: Susan Eisenhower, Huffington Post