Referring to a societal “shift” in thinking about memorials that “came last summer,” the statement says: “The US and global debt crisis ushered in a new era. Today, we must learn again to celebrate things that are simple, sustainable, and affordable.”
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who chairs the House subcommittee on national parks, forests, and public lands, used the family’s statement to call for slowing the memorial’s approval process, which could include a pivotal vote by the National Capital Planning Commission this summer.
“I remain concerned that taxpayer dollars will be used to fund construction of a memorial to President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower despite the fact that his family has expressed concern and opposition to major design components,” Bishop said in a statement. “I respect the Eisenhower family’s request that the memorial reflect the concepts: simple, sustainable, and affordable. At present, it does not appear to meet those qualifications and until a consensus can be reached,
. . .
I support the family’s request to hold off on moving forward with the project.”
Despite the statements by Salazar and Bishop, the memorial commission attempted to reach out to the Eisenhower family with a letter released Wednesday afternoon. Chairman Rocco C. Siciliano said he was “delighted” to read the family’s statement and underscored his group’s commitment to “the maintenance and sustainability of the entire memorial.”
“Moving forward, I believe we can allay your concerns about the sustainability of the tapestries,” wrote Siciliano, who served as special assistant to President Eisenhower.
In interviews, Gehry has stressed the historic role tapestry has played in heroic narratives. But they are far from a merely incidental or decorative element of his design. Without them, the memorial would be framed by ugly office buildings, including the Department of Education building, which is one of the least inspired structures facing the Mall. Developing the tapestries was a major part of Gehry’s design process, and the unveiling of sample tapestries in September was instrumental in earning preliminary approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (which, along with the National Capital Planning Commission, must sign off on the design).
Simply removing them would probably mean the wholesale scuttling of Gehry’s design. So the family’s statement sets up two possible outcomes: The Eisenhower Memorial Commission successfully responds to practical concerns, and the memorial moves forward; or opponents of the memorial succeed in forcing the removal of the tapestries, which could delay the creation of a memorial for years or decades.