The singularly most amazing aspect of this quasi-public debate about the design of the Eisenhower memorial is: who picked the damn site? This seems not unlike the Roosevelt Memorial’s location, amazingly off the main track. How could we not put the Eisenhower memorial next to the World War II memorial? As to the specific design and architect Frank Gehry’s work to arrive at it, it is clear to me that he is well ahead of the public and, in this case, the family, who seem to forget that humble beginnings in life are what America likes to say it celebrates.
Bill Reynolds, Annapolis, Milwaukee, Hartford
When will we learn that a well-intentioned bureaucracy is a poor substitute for the marketplace of ideas? I sympathize with Mr. Gehry, who was set up for a fall when the General Services Administration chose him from its own selection of 44 “qualified” competitors. That mentality should have disappeared after the entry of Maya Lin, a student at the time, was chosen — unanimously — for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in an open competition with 1,421 entries.
Philip Kennicott described the Gehry design as “brilliant.” Perhaps so. But it needs to be vindicated in an open competition.
Donald L. Champagne, Silver Spring
Reading Philip Kennicott’s article, I was saddened by the fact that few of our students and citizens are taught visual literacy. Americans focus so heavily on the written word that we are losing the ability to read and understand art. And this at a time when, due to the advent of electronics and the Internet, images are overtaking words as the front line of communications. Frank Gehry’s monument to President Eisenhower employs the elements and principles of art, design and theater to tell the complete story of a man who went from the humblest of beginnings to the greatest of heights. If Gehry’s design is shut down in favor of another white marble man sculpture, it will be a sad and retrograde day in Washington. Great art has little to do with the arrival of something expected and everything to do with the arrival of something unimaginable.
Julia Langley, professor of art history, Montgomery College