Rep. Rob Bishop is no architecture buff. But the Utah Republican loves Dwight Eisenhower. And saving money.
So the Utah Republican is essentially pitting himself against the world’s greatest living architect in a battle over the planned memorial to Ike.
The 14-year odyssey to build the memorial to our 34th president is getting seriously messy, with Bishop holding a hearing on legislation he introduced that would scrap the yet-to-be-built memorial designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry.
Bishop, who chairs the public-lands subcommittee of the Natural Resources panel, hasn’t come right out and called the Gehry-designed memorial, planned for a choice bit of real estate on the National Mall, undignified. But he seems to be siding with members of the Eisenhower family who fear that the design is too busy (one family member told the Washingtonian magazine it looked “like a theme park”).
He says he didn’t like the process used to select it, and wants to re-open the process and solicit other designs.
And Bishop fears the whole thing’s getting a little pricey, and wants better accounting of how the commission established to oversee the project is spending its money.
A little backstory: Congress passed a law in 1999 authorizing a memorial to Eisenhower. Since then, the commission solicited proposals and selected Gehry’s design.
But things have gotten complicated. The Eisenhower family members started complaining about the Gehry design. Some people don’t like the mesh-metal “tapestries” incorporated into it. The family and other critics have questioned the closed-bid process used to select it.
Still others have fired back. The American Institute of Architecture criticized Bishop’s bill, calling it an effort to stifle creativity.
Don’t look for smoother water ahead, either.
Congress has to pass some kind of reauthorization by May in order to hold the spot for the memorial on the Mall. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, is delving into the matter. And everyone in Washington knows how an Issa investigation goes. Spoiler alert: It gets even more vigorous.