The Eisenhower Memorial Commissioners will review the compromise Frank Gehry design unveiled this month as well as a new alternative without any of the controversial tapestries or columns when it meets Wednesday, according to a letter from the commission’s executive director.
Commission Executive Director Brig. Gen. Carl Reddel wrote in a letter Monday that the two options are a response to Rep. Darrell Issa’s request that the memorial commission present alternatives to the National Capital Planning Commission on Oct. 2. Issa (R-Calif.) is the chairman of that commission, one of two government bodies that must approve the design of the memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Reddel agreed to Issa’s request, but he noted that “Gehry Partners has indicated that it will not present or associate its name with a design that does not include the tapestry and column elements and will withdraw from the project.”
The massive metal tapestries have been the focal point of much criticism of the $140 million memorial. The tapestries would depict the Kansas landscape of the president’s childhood.
Eisenhower family members, conservative politicians and many designers have spoken against the design. Supporters have praised its innovative effort to create a roofless temple that honors the World War II general.
Reddel expressed surprise at Issa’s request, because the California congressman made several positive statements about the revised design and said he was prepared to support it.
The prospect of a memorial devoid of Gehry’s tapestries and name is the latest development in a tumultuous, 15-year journey to erect a memorial to the country’s 34th president.
Earlier this month, officials from Gehry Partners presented a revised design to the NCPC that removed two of the three tapestries while maintaining the 80-foot side columns. Several NCPC commissioners criticized the revision, with one saying the site looked like a scene from “The Planet of the Apes” and another suggesting the free-standing columns resembled the underpinnings of one of the superhighway that are part of the Eisenhower legacy.
Commissioner Bruce Cole describes Gehry’s revised design as a step backward.
“Originally, there were four eight-story columns from which metal screens were suspended. Now, the screens are gone and only two forlorn columns remain, which serve no purpose and look like giant industrial smokestacks,” Cole said. “What’s all this has got to do with Ike is beyond me.”