Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eisenhower family wants DC memorial redesigned

This artist rendering provided by the Eisenhower Commission shows a model for the national memorial to be built in Washington for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's family wants to halt the planning of a memorial honoring the 34th president because they object to the design.

This artist rendering provided by the Eisenhower Commission shows a model for the national memorial to be built in Washington for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's family wants to halt the planning of a memorial honoring the 34th president because they object to the design.

January 10, 2012, 3:04 p.m. Updated January 10, 2012, 6:26 p.m.


— President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family wants a memorial in the nation’s capital redesigned, saying the current plans overemphasize his humble Kansas roots and neglect his accomplishments in World War II and the White House.

Architect Frank Gehry has proposed a memorial park framed by large metal tapestries with images of Eisenhower’s boyhood home in Abilene, Kan. In the park, a statue of “Ike” as a boy would seem to marvel at what would become of his life, leading the Allied forces and becoming president. From the White House, he integrated schools and the military, and created NASA and interstate highways. Additional sculpture elements would depict Eisenhower as general and president.

Gehry’s idea echoed Eisenhower’s speech when he returned to Kansas after the war and spoke of a “barefoot boy” who achieved fame in Europe. He came home “to say the proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

Anne Eisenhower, one of the president’s granddaughters, sent a formal objection to the National Capital Planning Commission on Tuesday on behalf of the family. Still, she noted Gehry is a talented architect.

“What one has to say is he’s missed the message here,” she told The Associated Press. “The mandate is to honor Eisenhower, and that is not being done in this current design. Or, shall we say, it is being done in such a small scale in relation to the memorial that it is dwarfed.”

National Capital Planning Commission Executive Director Marcel Acosta said in a short statement the panel “appreciates the comments provided by the Eisenhower family.”

The Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which hired Gehry, said they plan to seek final approval of the design in March and hope to break ground this year.

Images of Eisenhower as a general addressing troops before D-Day and as president studying the globe would be represented in stone in “heroic scale,” said Daniel Feil, the project’s executive architect. With all the attention on Gehry’s tapestries, some failed to see other aspects of the memorial, he said.

Feil said he does not expect to make any major changes to Gehry’s design.

The memorial commission said David Eisenhower, the president’s grandson who previously sat on the commission, never voted against any of the design proposals or voiced objections. He resigned from the group in December.

“In terms of the family, it’s very hard in a sense to understand where all of it is coming from,” Feil said.

Gehry has said he wants to make sure the Eisenhower family approves the design, but he has dismissed the idea of using a traditional statue, saying all the great sculptors are long gone.

Gehry’s design follows the trend of other memorials honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, World War II veterans and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Those memorials are broad spaces with many elements to engage visitors.

Susan Eisenhower, another granddaughter, said “Ike” is simply the wrong figure to memorialize with an avant-garde approach. He was a traditionalist and bewildered by modern art, she said.

In a 1962 speech at the dedication of his presidential library, Eisenhower spoke of modern art as “a piece of canvas that looks like a broken down tin lizzie (Model T Ford), loaded with paint, has been driven over it.”

“Just about everybody on the mall had humble origins,” Susan Eisenhower said. “But you don’t get to the mall because you had humble origins. You get to the mall because you did something for which the nation is grateful.”

Eisenhower’s son, John Eisenhower, 89, wrote a letter saying the family is united in its desire to have the design re-examined. He called for a simple memorial in stone.

Beyond the memorial’s images, the family is worried about the symbolism of tapestries towering eight stories high because “Ike” was a humble man. Something smaller would make more sense, Susan Eisenhower said.

The memorial also would have its back to the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education Building, which sends the wrong message because Eisenhower and Johnson accomplished much together, the family wrote.

Memorial planners have said the tapestries will be transparent and won’t block views of the building.

The family also questions the sustainability of the metal material and who would keep the woven metal clean of leaves and trash caught by the tapestry.

“Great monuments to our leaders are simple in design and made of durable stone for a reason,” the family wrote.

The debate comes as families take a stronger role in national memorials. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children and late wife helped shape the new King Memorial.

In the 1990s, Roosevelt’s family was divided over how a disabled president should be portrayed. A statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair was eventually added.

The influence from families emerged with the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and more recently with the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, said Kirk Savage, author of “Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape.”

Representing Eisenhower as a teenage boy, as Gehry proposed, would be interesting, Savage said, because it makes people relate to him in a different way, perhaps more closely.

“It’s about humanizing the leader, bringing him down into our space and our world, so that we can engage with him,” Savage said. “If they had just decided to do a statue of him in a military uniform or as president, in a way it wouldn’t have provoked any commentary at all.

“No one would have really paid attention.”

Davis Buckley, an architect who has designed other memorials in Washington, said a more daring approach with Eisenhower’s memorial makes sense because “Ike” established the basis “for who we are now in the 21st century.” Many people may forget that he integrated schools and created and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“He was a visionary, and I think that it is appropriate to push the design envelope in terms of what this memorial is,” Buckley said. “It’s a question of how they get there.”

Susan Eisenhower said the family is trying to be constructive and ensure there is a full public discussion.

“We knew him better than anybody,” she said. “I just don’t feel any part of him in this.”


Dan Thalmann 6 years, 4 months ago

Slap. I will now go eat a piece of humble pie.

Bob Forer 6 years, 4 months ago

Reminds me of the good old days when Republicans were mostly still good and decent folks.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 4 months ago

I also " LIKE IKE", still have one of his campaign buttons

BigAl 6 years, 4 months ago

Ike couldn't get elected in todays current Republican Party. Same for Reagan.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 4 months ago

"...saying all the great sculptors are long gone.". Look a bit harder, Mr. Gehry. Jim Brothers is a great sculptor. He's from Kansas, too.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

Good point. He was also the first 'tv' president who got much coverage. Also the first president to be dragged into the presidential 'prayer' breakfast against his better judgement. Thank Doug Coe and the C-Street Family Cult for this one. His speech was a riot to the assembled: Basically, "It's good to have some religion and we all do. If you feed me, things will be ok." All his speeches are on line. Look some of them up, people. I still like IKE, like most Kansans.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

The photo looks like something you'd see on Cake Wrecks.

woodscolt 6 years, 4 months ago

One of the ugliest things I have ever seen. Frank (not Lloyd Wright) Gehry has pushed the envelope on a lot of his designs but this one is just gawd awful ugly. It looks like a monument to what Ike feared the" Military Industrial Complex" might do capable of doing.

Ike is already gyrating in is grave over how ugly the republican party has become .

Make a monument that represents Ike, not todays republican party.

Mark Jakubauskas 6 years, 4 months ago

Frank Gehry is a primo example of why present-day architecture generally has gone into the toilet...all ego, no skill or beauty. (And don't get me started on a Dan Rockhill rant...)

woodscolt 6 years, 4 months ago

(And don't get me started on a Dan Rockhill rant...)

nor me either. He's even an insult to ugly, But he's got the "ego no skill" thing down to a science. At least give him that.

beatrice 6 years, 4 months ago

They hired Frank Gehry! What do they expect? I like the idea of telling a story through the monument, but would agree with the family that it should speak to the man's accomplishments, which reach their peak with his being President. Time to realize it was a mistake to hire Gehry, pay him off, and hit reset.

WilburM 6 years, 4 months ago

My, my,my. The architectural critics are out in force. Maybe we can get the architect (sic) who "designed" the Oread to do the DDE Memorial. Now that would be a monument... (to what, well, that's s different question).

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

+1 LOL. the Oread bunker is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. Still can't believe they torn down an old hippie bar and a sandwich shop to build that monster. After they go broke, KU will probably inherit it. Oh well, at least another local fat cat got a taste of our money to 'help' build it.

rshern 6 years, 4 months ago

+1 for Jim Brothers. No, make that +10!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 4 months ago

Can't pay our bills and they are suggesting a memorial? Fire them all this fall.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 4 months ago

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

"In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded."

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

"It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."

"Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

"Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect."

Alternative energy idea: hook up a generator to old Ike's corpse because I'm sure it's spinning fast right now.

woodscolt 6 years, 4 months ago

Wow, what kind of government hating socialist pig weirdo came up with that stuff. Emphasis on freedom and preserving the environment. I missed which one of the pub candidates made that speech.

Mike Hatch 6 years, 4 months ago

I think it looks odd.

I wonder if his family ever makes it out to Abilene to see the Eisenhower museum, library, and other things there? If so, hope they don't stay at the old White House motel. Wow. It's not called that anymore, but it makes me nervous just to drive by it.

verity 6 years, 4 months ago

I like it. I think it's time for a change from the same old thing and it does say more about Eisenhower than a traditional statue would.

I was wondering why the family didn't object earlier, so I looked it up. It seems there's a lot more to this story than we read here.

Of course we don't know how biased this article is either.

woodscolt 6 years, 4 months ago

Maybe so, verity, some people like ugly and seeing is believing, this thing is ugly. Nothing "more to the story" required.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Eisenhower has been the only repub president to accomplish a balanced budget....

Joe Hyde 6 years, 4 months ago

This memorial to Ike combines the worst design elements of a drive-in movie theater, the column ruins at Egypt's Temple of Thebes and Greece's Parthenon, and a monolithic Kansas grain elevator (absent the individual silo tube belly bulges).

Okay, so I'm picky.

Still, why not go for a small monument? But inscribed somewhere on it, among many other important pieces of information, are directions to Interstate 70 so that curious visitors could experience a road trip across the United States on the Interstate highway system that Ike pushed for and authorized. During said road trip travelers could stop in Abilene, Kansas and learn far more about Eisenhower's military and political career than what any Washington, DC memorial can ever show them.

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