Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eisenhower family at impasse on memorial design

May 30, 2012

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— President Dwight D. Eisenhower's family welcomed design changes by architect Frank Gehry for a memorial honoring the World War II general but said Wednesday that any monument should be "simple, sustainable and affordable" to honor his values.

This model image, provided by Eisenhower Memorial Commission, shows the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial to be built in Washington. Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveiled some changes to a planned memorial honoring Eisenhower after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.

This model image, provided by Eisenhower Memorial Commission, shows the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial to be built in Washington. Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveiled some changes to a planned memorial honoring Eisenhower after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.

This model image, provided by Eisenhower Memorial Commission, shows the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial to be built in Washington. Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveiled some changes to a planned memorial honoring Eisenhower after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.

This model image, provided by Eisenhower Memorial Commission, shows the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial to be built in Washington. Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveiled some changes to a planned memorial honoring Eisenhower after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.

In a joint statement from Eisenhower's son and grandchildren provided to The Associated Press, the family offered its first reaction to changes in the national memorial design that Gehry announced May 15.

The family continues to oppose the use of large metal scrims to frame a memorial park near the National Mall. Gehry has called them tapestries that would depict the landscape of Eisenhower's boyhood home in Kansas. The scope and scale of the images woven in metal, though, remain "controversial and divisive," the family said.

In Gehry's design changes, images of Eisenhower carved in stone would be replaced with 9-foot-tall statues depicting Ike as World War II hero and president. The statues would show General Eisenhower with soldiers before the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. As president, he would be shown with his hand on the globe. There is also a life-size sculpture of a young Eisenhower looking out at what his life would become.

"From our perspective, many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed," the family said — but added that more time is needed to break an impasse over the metal scrims.

"Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions..." the family said. "This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial's backdrop, is impractical and unnecessary."

The family said it does not support a design that uses the metal scrims, doubting how long they would last.

Still, a spokeswoman for the presidentially appointed Eisenhower Memorial Commission said Wednesday that the panel is happy the family is supportive of the new design.

"In defining what their problem is with the tapestries, they seem to be talking more about the environment and sustainability," said Chris Cimko. Those concerns are "shared concerns" and subject to ongoing, rigorous testing by independent laboratories, Cimko said.

Earlier in May, Gehry seemed determined to protect that feature as part of the overall concept. Designers from his firm were photographing Kansas landscapes to develop the final images. His firm is also testing materials against corrosive conditions.

"Eisenhower was so proud to grow up in Kansas — leaving out this imagery would mean omitting an important part of his story," Gehry wrote to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which includes lawmakers from Kansas and elsewhere.

Members of the commission at a meeting May 15 all voiced approval of Gehry's design but put off a formal vote.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who oversees national memorials through the National Park Service and has met with the Eisenhower family, said Wednesday that the design must reflect the vision of memorial organizers, the family and the American people so it can "stand the test of time."

"Though it is important to move forward as swiftly as possible, our priority must be in getting it right," Salazar said. "If more time is required to get it right, so be it."

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.

On Wednesday, the family thanked the famous architect for being responsive to objections.

In an interview, Susan Eisenhower said adding statues would draw attention to the 34th president's accomplishments. Other elements are innovative for today — namely the woven metal — but aren't designed for the ages, she said.

"It's America's memorial and our gift to future generations," she said. "If this doesn't get completed in my lifetime, I'm OK with that as long as we've got the right process in place."

The nation's economic downturn "ushered in a new era" for 21st century memorial projects, the family said, along with the need to reconnect with Eisenhower's values of celebrating things that are simple, sustainable and affordable.

The design debate reminded Susan Eisenhower of a passage in her grandfather's farewell speech from the White House.

"As we peer into society's future — you and I and our government — we must avoid the impulse to live only for today," Eisenhower said, "plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow."

Comments

Milton Bland 3 years, 2 months ago

I agree. Republicans can identify real art. Democrats, especially the Lawrence libs, call a pile of dog dung art.

riverdrifter 3 years, 2 months ago

"Republicans can identify real art."

Now that's funny! Give us some more.

verity 3 years, 2 months ago

Oh, good grief! Does this really need to be turned into another partisan $$!#& contest? I don't think that honors President Eisenhower's values, which is what his family is trying to do.

Too bad we don't have people like Eisenhower in politics today---I am not of his party, but he was a real statesman.

Bob Forer 3 years, 2 months ago

I don't understand the criticism of Ike for being a Republican. In today's political world, Ike would be more of a centrist democrat than a Republican. Both parties have shifted to the right in the last half century.

Heck, i would prefer Ike to half the democrats now in office.

Jeremiah Jefferson 3 years, 2 months ago

He was the last good president this country had

sourpuss 3 years, 2 months ago

Maybe if they chose a better designer than Gehry? I think he is one of the most overrated architects on the planet. He has no concept of contextual sensitivity and his buildings simply are not aesthetically pleasing. They should scrap the monument and start over with someone more sympathetic with the foundation's values.

Shane Garrett 3 years, 2 months ago

Eisenhower, was a great President. And I think partly because he did not want the job. But, when duty calls Eisenhower the man, the leader, rose to the occasion. Truly a Brilliant man with thoughts and actions that would lead America to a better future. I can still recall hearing the cannons fire for his funeral.

woodscolt 3 years, 2 months ago

"simple, sustainable and affordable"

This should be sufficient guidance for an architect to work from as well as leaving plenty of room for the designer . Commissioning a high profile architect will often times get you a monument to the architect. Just think of all the up and coming architects that could take these simple instructions and come up with a monument that represents Ike. Part of critiquing a design is "how well does it stick to the original purpose" and geahry continues to fail on this simple check and balance.

verity 3 years, 2 months ago

While I find much of Gehry's architecture both interesting and beautiful, it often doesn't fit into the environment where it is built. I think that the very nature of architecture demands that it be more traditional/conservative than some other art forms. We may be stuck with it for a long time and certainly a monument is meant to be around for generations.

From the memorial website:

http://eisenhowermemorial.org/

"Q. Why was Frank Gehry selected to design the Eisenhower Memorial? A. Frank Gehry was selected based on his creative and innovative approach, a competition interview with his design team, site visits to previous projects and his overall response to the pre-design program for the memorial. Mr. Gehry´s creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness demonstrated his understanding of Eisenhower as a General, President, and World Citizen.

Q. How was Frank Gehry selected to design the Eisenhower Memorial? A. The Gehry team was one of four finalists in a GSA Design Excellence Program competition. Mr. Gehry participated in a three-stage process that began with submissions from forty-four design firms in October 2008. Evaluation factors included previous work, interviews, and responses to the memorial´s pre-design program. The program addressed Eisenhower´s accomplishments and the physical parameters of the memorial site."

" . . . on March 25, 2010 the Eisenhower Memorial Commission unanimously selected the preferred design concept created by world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry."

The commission: Alfred Geduldig, Rep. Sanford Bishop, Jr., Rep. Mike Simpson, Sen. Pat Roberts, Chairman Rocco Siciliano, Vice Chairman Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Chairman Rocco C. Siciliano, Susan Banes Harris, Rep. Mac Thornberrry, Sen. Jerry Moran, Sen. Jack Reed, Rep. Leonard Boswell.

Note that this includes our two Kansas senators, but apparently no member of the Eisenhower family. As far as I can tell, not one member of the commission is any sort of authority on architecture.

In my search, I came across this website which is very interesting and telling in light of the current controversy.

http://www.eisenhowermemorial.net/national-civic-art-society-testifies-eisenhower-memorial-congressional-hearing.html

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