Mistake: Eisenhower Memorial
It has been
described as sentimental kitsch, a “McMonument” flanked by Soviet-style
curtains with towering columns that are reminiscent of missile silos.
monument to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. president and
commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, has also been
sterile and beneath the great man’s dignity.
the concrete and limestone tribute will clash with the classical
other noble monuments along the national mall that are cast in marble
integral parts of the controversial design by celebrity architect Frank
would be fashioned with gnarled industrial steel, reminding some of
Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, has been a leading
of the monument’s design, and calls it a hollow temple to nothingness.
post-modern eyesore that clashes with our tradition of presidential
family is not delighted with it either.
what her grandfather would think of the design, Susan Eisenhower, the
spokeswoman, told Human Events “He would be perplexed by it.”
the memorial in 1999 and the four-acre site, chosen in 2005, lies south
National Air and Space Museum and north of the Lyndon Baines Johnson
of Education Building, adjacent to the National Mall.
announced as the lead designer in 2009, following a closed competition
select entrants, and a year later the controversial design was
Eisenhower Memorial Commission planned to break ground this fall, but
opposition could force a delay beyond the 2015 completion date.
the initial design showed titanic columns towering over a life-size
Eisenhower as a young, barefoot boy, sitting on a plank.
imagine a steel screen that is the length of a city block and up to 80
high, so huge it would dwarf the Hollywood sign,” Shubow said. “And
is held up with enormous pillars … each like its own building 80 feet
12 feet. The imagery on the screen is supposedly of the Abilene,
landscape, but what it is are trees in winter without leaves. I think
people understand winter and bleak scenes like that as an allegory for
It’s not optimistic. It’s not an image of promise.”
victims express outrage
just art critics and the family who say the memorial should be
redesigned. Eisenhower says she has been contacted by several people
families’ lives were torn apart by Nazi Germany, and for them, the
evokes sinister memories.
whose mother survived Auschwitz told Eisenhower that the giant metal
scrims reminded her of the chain link fences in the death camps.
Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish
Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants: it was General Eisenhower,
commander of the liberating armies, who “enabled my parents to live.”
first brought those concerns to Capitol Hill in March when she
the House Natural Resources Committee.
professional assignments carried none of the romantic notion that is
in the current memorial concept and design,” Eisenhower said. “He was
person tapped to end the horrors of a Nazi-occupied Europe and later to
the United States and her allies to halt communist aggression and avoid
Armageddon. The man we celebrate is not a dreamy boy, but a real man
unthinkable choices, took personal responsibility and did his duty–with
changes to the design were made last month and the Eisenhower family
a good start, but they are still concerned about the giant screens and
steel tapestry that uses questionable materials that might not stand up
test of time.
billboard-sized tapestries of woven stainless steel mesh supported on
colonnade of limestone will now depict images of Eisenhower´s life.
carved into stone would depict Eisenhower as president, a WWII hero,
soldiers before the invasion of Normandy. The statue of Eisenhower will
feature him as a teenager, life-sized, but not on a pedestal, looking
to his future.
“I think he
would be puzzled by the narrative of a young man looking to his future
life—this is a very contemporary notion, dreaming about the future,”
said. “We never heard him talk in those terms, it was always about
of the Eisenhower memorial should be around the period in which he led
great forces, he led the liberation of Europe and the fight against
the Second World War and Cold War,” Eisenhower said.
context of a person’s life really matters. I just don’t think we have
narrative at the moment, and the design modifications unveiled several
ago really did not speak to this concept. It spoke to drawing more
specific design elements,” Eisenhower said.
something that inspires a sense of leadership and service. What it
lacks is an inspiring theme. Just to grow up and do something important
your life—that kind of story line might be very appropriate for other
Young people looking at the memorial will be hard pressed to become
generals,” Eisenhower said.
wants to be sensitive to the different impressions the current design
and sensitive to those directly affected by the Holocaust.
“He has to
be put in the context of his times. If those scrims mean something
that he fought against, we have to be sensitive to that,” Eisenhower
“[The family] has something, I think, to offer on the questions of his
personality and his likes and dislikes, but at the end of the day, it
America’s memorial and our gift to future generations.”
Eisenhower family said the memorial should be simple, made of
materials that can withstand corrosive conditions, and affordable.
cost has skyrocketed to $142 million, with an estimated $19 million to
on design and artist fees. The bulk of the cost, 80 percent, would be
by taxpayer dollars, the rest from private donations.
comparison, Shubow says the Washington Monument was built in 1885 at a
$1.87 million dollars—or the equivalent of more than $44 million in
dollars. The Lincoln Memorial erected in 1922 cost nearly $4 million,
2010 would cost more than $46 million while the memorial to Franklin D.
Roosevelt built in 1997 cost $48 million, nearly $65 million in 2010
memorial to President Eisenhower has gained significant attention and
opinion, the process has failed to achieve a design with a consensus of
support,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Subcommittee on
Parks, Forests and Public Lands, said at a June 1 hearing.
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is
demanding that documents be turned over to his panel to explain why and
General Services Administration chose the artist.
divisions prompted Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar to
June 7 to announce that he will act as a mediator between the family
Eisenhower Memorial Commission before it goes to a vote by the
Fine Arts scheduled for June 21 and the National Capitol Planning
(NCPC) set for July 12.
to Salazar’s move, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission issued a
reiterating its goal “to create a memorial that appropriately
President Eisenhower using a diligent and thoughtful process.”
appreciate that Frank Gehry has been extremely open to listening to the
concerns of all stakeholders in the evolution of his handsome design.
to make sure that any outstanding questions are answered as the process
forward. We look forward to working with the Department of Interior to
accomplish this while avoiding additional costs and excessive delays
deny our nation’s dwindling population of WWII veterans the opportunity
experience the memorial in their lifetimes,” the commission said.
Thornberry (R-Texas), who sits on the Eisenhower Memorial commission,
recent changes have greatly improved the design.
perfectly satisfied with the general design, but there are still
need to be worked out. They are still testing on the screens to make
are durable, and the specific wording that would be placed on the
Eisenhower’s speeches have not been decided yet. I think the design is
evolving but the general layout is certainly something I am satisfied
on the final design will likely be made in September.
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