What was most disappointing about The Post editorial promoting Frank Gehry’s design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial [ “The memorial to Ike,” April 9] was its failure to mention the effects on the sensitive Maryland Avenue site and on Washington’s urban DNA: the 1791 L’Enfant Plan and the 1901-02 McMillan Plan.
Both plans envisioned Maryland Avenue as the mirror image of Pennsylvania Avenue north of the Mall and radiating out from the Capitol, with equally stunning vistas to and from that symbol of American democracy. The fact that Maryland Avenue has never achieved its intended brilliance, and instead has been cut up, neglected and turned into a parking lot, is not a reason to ignore it. Nor it is a reason to place a 4-acre, 80-foot-high “roofless building” across its axis.
This is not a controversy that can be dismissed solely as a matter of expertise, taste, family objections, architectural style or even urban design. It’s about something far more fundamental — concerning history, memory, the legacy of President George Washington in the design of Washington and the role of modern memorials in the American story told in the capital.
The Eisenhower memorial and the plans for Washington deserve more attention and intelligent discussion than has taken place. With this important design project, we have a rare and wonderful opportunity to create a meaningful memorial and to implement another long-deferred element of the L’Enfant Plan, recognized to be one of the great urban design plans of all time.
Judy Scott Feldman, Rockville
The writer is chair of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.
Regarding Richard Cohen’s April 10 column, “With Ike, art does not imitate life”:
Until a 1967 meeting with Dwight D. Eisenhower changed his mind, Mr. Cohen said, he (and his family) considered the former president to be “the dullard, the good-natured dolt who had failed to stand up to Sen. Joe McCarthy.”
Eisenhower was a five-star general and the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe in World War II. He was also the president of Columbia University from 1948 to 1953. That anyone could ever consider a man with such a distinguished career a “dullard” and a “good-natured dolt” perfectly demonstrates the astounding blindness that results from baseless political bias.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the vituperative attacks upon such outstanding figures as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, etc., this malady is just as alive today as it was in the ’60s. The tendency of liberals to label conservatives as stupid is far too common.
Stephen Bartholomew, Lynchburg, Va.
The proposed design for the Eisenhower memorial seems to me to emphasize the setting rather than the reason for the memorial. Shouldn’t a memorial be primarily a testimony to a person or event and only secondarily a landscape design?
Wade Tyree Kinnard, Chambersburg, Pa.