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Frank Gehry’s latest design changes

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Yesterday, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission saw a revised proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial, designed by architect Frank Gehry. (More background on the proposal’s controversy here and here.) According to the Washington Post, the bas-relief sculptures (which you can see here) have been replaced by three-dimensional statues of Eisenhower as president and general. These 9-foot statues will depict “portrayals of Eisenhower with soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division before the invasion of Normandy and the 1966 Yousuf Karsh ‘Elder Statesman’ photo.”

The National Civic Art Society (with whom we are co-sponsoring Friday’s panel discussion, “Monumental Fights: The Role of Memorials in Civic Life”) argues that the new design does not go far enough in addressing many of critics’ key concerns:

Justin Shubow, president of National Civic Art Society, says the memorial “still portrays Eisenhower as an unrecognizable boy or young man, which is at its core.”

Milton Grenfell, vice chairman of the civic art society and a classical architecture advocate, said the new design remained overscale, “with huge iron curtains,” and called the inscribed stones perched atop one another “willful” and “anti-aesthetic,” giving a feeling of “something that’s not going to last.” He said he hoped Congress would have a chance to weigh in.

As Grenfell notes, the 80-foot-tall “huge iron curtains”–or, as Gehry calls them, “tapestries”–remain in the revised design, despite heavy criticism from the Eisenhower family. As Susan Eisenhower argued in her testimony before the Commission in March,

The design team at Gehry and Associates and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has made a habit of referring to the metal curtains as ‘tapestries,’ referencing the tradition to place great people and events on woven material. This may be true of the Middle Ages, but noteworthy modern tapestries are those in the Communist world. Tapestries honoring Marx, Engels and Lenin used to hang in Red Square; Mao Zedong could be found in Tiananmen Square; and Ho Chi Minh’s tapestry hung from public buildings in Hanoi—to name a few.

For more on the proposed Eisenhower Memorial, and the role of memorials in civic life, come to our event at AEI on Friday morning. Register here.