The Eisenhower Memorial Commission will seek preliminary approval of the modified Frank Gehry design — and only that design — from the National Capital Planning Commission at its monthly meeting Oct. 2.
In a private vote, the commissioners decided not to comply with the request from NCPC member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to present the panel with an alternative version that removed the memorial’s much-
maligned columns and steel tapestries, key elements of Gehry’s vision.
The results of the vote came on the same day the commission announced the resignation of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) from the public-private body that is charged with the creation of a public tribute to the 34th president and World War II general.
Last week, the commission was unable to hold a public vote because only five of its 12 members were in attendance, two short of a quorum. Members were then given a week to vote individually on a motion that called for the commission submit two alternatives to the NCPC, one of several government agencies that must approve the project before construction can begin. The motion was defeated 8 to 2, with one abstention.
The commission also defeated a resolution that called on the group to pause until Nov. 1 in order to reflect on its current operations and finances. The vote was also 8 to 2.
The vote is another twist in the 15-year saga to create a public monument to the Texas-born general and president on a four-acre site on Independence Avenue.
Gehry’s design — with its 80-foot columns and steel tapestries depicting the boyhood roots of the notoriously modest president — has caused major delays for the memorial, which was supposed to be open six years ago.
Critics, including Eisenhower’s descendants and members of Congress, blasted the plan’s large-scale elements, while supporters praised it for its reinvention of memorial vocabulary.
The NCPC appeared ready this month to grant preliminary approval for this edited version, which removes two of the three tapestries and improves the sightlines to the Capitol. But days later, one member, Issa sent a letter to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission asking it to present NCPC with two alternatives, the new Gehry and one stripped of all columns and tapestries, leaving only some statuary at the center of the park. Gehry has indicated he would remove his name if this version was chosen.
Moran’s surprise resignation comes after 13 years on the commission. A past supporter of Gehry’s vision, Moran did not indicate his reasons for stepping down.
But Garrette Silverman, Moran’s communications director, said in a statement that the senator had been “a staunch advocate for the state of Kansas to have a presence within the Memorial design.”
“Senator Moran’s ongoing support for the inclusion of Kansas has led him to conclude that this stance is blocking a memorial to President Eisenhower from completion,” Silverman said. “He appreciates the dedication of the Eisenhower Commission staff in seeing that this Memorial becomes a reality, and hopes an Eisenhower Memorial is completed soon.”
Commission Chairman Rocco Siciliano praised Moran’s service.
“As one of our first commissioners, Senator Moran has served on the commission with tireless dedication since 2001. As a Kansan, he provided knowledge and perspective regarding President Eisenhower’s home state that was extremely helpful as we worked to capture the essence of Eisenhower’s roots and legacy,” Siciliano said in a statement.
An earlier version of this story had the incorrect birthplace of Eisenhower. This story has been corrected.