Eisenhower Memorial Breaks Ground

8. de novembre 2017
Image courtesy of Eisenhower Memorial Committee
Last week the controversial Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, designed by Frank Gehry, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on its four-acre site on Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.
It's been three years since we last checked in on the memorial project: in October 2014 Gehry's design, after several revisions, was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts. Although the project for a memorial to the 34th President of the United States began in 1999, Frank Gehry's inolvement dates back to 2009, when he was named the winner of a memorial design competition. Since then the architect has had to deal with the usual bureauctratic hurdles as well as strong opposition from, among others, critics wanting a more traditional design and members of the Eisenhower family who disliked the design and wanted to nullify the competition.

Gehry's memorial design is anchored by a large tapestry depicting Eisenhower's military and presidential accomplishments. Additionally, the park features freestanding columns and stone blocks, the latter acting as backdrops for sculptures depicting Eisenhower at various times in his life. In comparison to Gehry's signature projects, such as the Guggenheim Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Eisenhower Memorial is fairly sedate, softened by the landscape design and the numerous revisions, which include reducing the size of the tapestry, eliminating some of the columns, and providing a view corridor along the diagonal Maryland Avenue.

So what happened since the October 2014 approval? Per the Washington Post, even after gaining the required federal approvals "the Eisenhower family held firm in its opposition. Finally, former secretary of state James Baker was called in to negotiate with the family. He brokered a deal that changed the tapestry’s [initial] image of Kansas farmland to the beaches of Normandy." With a more international subject gracing the tapestry, the family consented and the latest revision gained approval in September 2017. With $117 million from Congress and half of its $25 million goal in private funds, the Eisenhower Memorial Committee was able to break ground, finally moving Gehry's design from the proverbial drawing board to the construction site.
Frank Gehry, short guy in the middle, during the groundbreaking ceremony on 2 November 2017 (Photo courtesy of Eisenhower Memorial Committee)

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