Architect Gehry Gets Design Gig For Ike Memorial

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 2, 2009

Frank O. Gehry, one of the world's leading architects, has been selected to design a national tribute to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a memorial commission announced yesterday morning.

The memorial is planned for a four-acre site on Independence Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets SW. The land is one block off the Mall, across from the National Air and Space Museum. The commission has asked for a landscaped civic plaza that would serve two roles, with both a memorial and open space.

This would be Gehry's first project in the heart of Washington. He designed the headquarters for Rouse Co. in Columbia, as well as the Merriweather Post Pavilion, which opened in 1967.

Gehry Partners, the architect's Los Angeles-based firm, was selected from four finalists Tuesday by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and the General Services Administration. The other finalists were Krueck & Sexton of Chicago, PWP Landscape Architecture of Berkeley, Calif., and Rogers Marvel Architects of New York.

The 12-member commission, created by Congress in 1999, includes David Eisenhower, grandson of the president, and its chairman is lawyer Rocco C. Siciliano.

Siciliano, who earned a Bronze Star in World War II and was an assistant to Eisenhower in the White House, said yesterday: "We were looking for creativity and looking for ingenuity. We wanted a firm that knows how to bring in the public, with an emphasis on young people. We know it wouldn't be a massive facility."

He added, "It's appropriate to have one of today's most outstanding architects design a memorial for one of our country's greatest leaders."

The use of the land has been approved by Congress, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. The project has been sponsored by the National Park Service, which will maintain and manage the site.

It's expected to cost $90 million to $120 million and to be completed five years from the formal signing of the contract with Gehry, said Daniel Feil, the commission's executive architect. The memorial will be paid for through public and private funds.

Gehry, 80, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the field's highest honor, in 1989.

His best-known works include the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Experience Music Project in Seattle. He was selected to design an expansion to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, but the project was canceled for lack of funds.

Eisenhower, a legendary World War II military leader, was the country's 34th president, serving from 1953 to 1961. During his administration, he ended the Korean War and led the country through Cold War tensions. He sent federal troops into Little Rock to force the desegregation of Central High School, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, established the Federal Aviation Administration and created the Interstate Highway System.

The presidential memorial will be the first constructed in Washington since the tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened in 1997.

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