The road to fruition for the Frank Gehry–designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has been full of twists and turns. And now, it seems, the Los Angeles architect’s plans may have reached a dead end. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted seven to three to reject the preliminary site and building plans for the memorial. The vote followed five hours of testimony from the proposal’s supporters and detractors, including House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa spoke against one of the design’s most (but not only) controversial features: the massive stainless-steel “tapestries” meant to depict scenes from Eisenhower’s life. Gehry’s design, which centers around a colonnade supporting three 80-foot-high tapestries, has been the subject of fervent debate since its unveiling in early 2010. In late 2011, two of Eisenhower’s granddaughters expressed public dissatisfaction with the design. The following March, Congress held a hearing on the matter. Then, in March 2013, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) proposed a bill to shut down the design. In the meantime, the most vocal of the Gehry proposal’s opponents, the National Civic Arts Society, launched a competition for a more traditional design. Last July, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved an updated design, but in January, Congress, unimpressed with Gehry Partners’ revisions thus far, cut off funding to the Eisenhower Memorial Committee. The NCPC executive director’s recommendations [PDF], which the commission adopted on Friday, cited concerns with “the proposed scale and configuration of the tapestries” and how they jeopardize several of the design principles outlined during the 2006 site approval process. These include protecting views to and from the Capitol building, preserving building and tree lines along Maryland Avenue, and working within the L’Enfant Plan’s broader vision for Washington, D.C.’s civic core. The report asked Gehry Partners to modify the memorial design to address specific issues of pedestrian circulation, perimeter security, lighting, and public space. On a positive note, the NCPC report announced that the stainless steel alloy proposed for the tapestry panels passed a series of durability tests. No one has said for certain that Gehry’s design is a goner. The NCPC report “[n]otes the Commission’s continued support for a modern and innovative approach to commemorate President Dwight D. Eisenhower, including the possible use of stainless steel tapestries, although not as currently proposed.” If nothing else, the price associated with scrapping the Gehry proposal—an estimated $17 million—has kept the process going this long. But the question remains: how many more stops and starts can one project take?
Posts tagged with "Dwight D. Eisenhower":
Frank Gehry's design for the four-acre Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. has sparked controversy for its departure from traditional memorial design around the National Mall from the president's family and others, prompting a third-party design competition and calls for redesign from Congress. Now the beleaguered memorial is one step closer to reality as the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) voted 3-to-1 this month to approve an updated design with additional changes to proposed woven-metal tapestries that have generated most of the public outcry. Besides the tapestries, Gehry's design has been criticized for its scale and the presentation of the president's humble Midwestern upbringing. Situated at the base of Capitol Hill across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum, the contentious design, carrying a $142 million price tag, has undergone several revisions from its original design. The commission asked Gehry to remove two of the tapestries still remaining in the latest layout, a request Gehry was receptive to considering. Other changes reflected in the new memorial include reorienting the center of the public space to create a more-defined alleé directing views to the Capitol building and providing more emphasis to Eisenhower's wartime achievements, such as new quotes from his famous Guildhall Address. The CFA includes new Commissioner Elizabeth Meyer, Vice-Chair Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Alex Krieger, and Edwin Schlossberg. Meyer, the only landscape architect on the commission, held the sole vote against approval of Gehry’s updated design. According to ASLA blog, the Dirt, she was not comfortable approving the design without reviewing it as a complete landscape plan, noting that the success of the memorial is tied to how it operates as a park and that the “architecture of the trees needs more time and refinement.” AECOM is working with Gehry on the memorial's landscape. The revised design now heads to the National Capital Planning Commission for its next approval, but uncertainty remains whether Congress will withhold funding for the $142 million project and force a redesign. Based on past expenditure, legislation to terminate Gehry’s plan, revamp the commission, and select a new design would cost $17 million, according to the Congressional Budgets Office.