The executive director of the National Capital Planning Commission is recommending the government agency grant preliminary approval to the modified Frank Gehry design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial at its monthly meeting Thursday.
The recommendation is a good sign for the project, which has struggled for years under scathing criticism of its unusual design.
Gehry’s plan originally incorporated 80-foot columns and three steel tapestries to define the perimeter of the four-acre site on Independence Avenue between the Department of Education and the Air and Space Museum. The tapestries feature images of Kansas farmland, a tribute to Eisenhower’s midwestern upbringing.
Once inside the park, the memorial features sculptures depicting both Eisenhower’s legacy as World War II general and 34th president of the United States.
The original design was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts but has yet to receive the green light from NCPC. Both agencies must approve the project before construction can begin.
The NCPC denied approval in April, as the executive director’s report recommended, and asked Gehry to revise his plan. Officials from the architect’s firm returned last month and presented a smaller design that removed two side tapestries and reduced the length of the remaining one. The changes were made to improve the views of the U.S. Capitol and address the memorial’s relationship to the surrounding buildings, two of the seven principles NCPC adopted when it approved the site in 2006.
The report for Thursday’s meeting describes Gehry’s edited version as “a substantial improvement” that balances the historic nature of the site with a design befitting a major presidential memorial.
The report suggests the 12 commissioners grant preliminary approval while seeking additional modifications to the plan’s lighting, security and landscaping.
“The revised preliminary memorial design continues to employ a modern and innovative approach to commemorating President Eisenhower,” the report notes.
If the project is approved by NCPC, the Eisenhower Commission may bring the revised design to the Commission of Fine Arts later this month.