Eisenhower Memorial Opens in DC

John Hill
16. September 2020
Photo courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

More than twenty years in the making, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, designed by Frank Gehry, is being formally dedicated on September 17 and opening to the public one day later.

Dedicated to the 34th President of the United States, familiarly known as Ike, the memorial was commissioned by the US Congress in 1999 and ten years later Frank Gehry was selected in a competition to design the memorial. It would be another eight years, in 2017, when ground finally broke on the memorial, which went through numerous revisions as it gained the necessary approvals and fended off opposition, most notably from the Eisenhower family itself and most vocally from the National Civic Arts Society, the organization headed by Justin Shubow, the traditionalist behind Donald Trump's draft executive order for classically designed federal buildings. The opponents were unsuccessful, obviously, but the coronavirus delayed the opening of the memorial from the earlier in the year until now.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial features sculptures of Ike as President surrounded by advisors, and as General addressing troops on the eve of D-Day. (Photo courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission)

As "a Gehry," the memorial design — both in its competition-winning form and as-built form — is fairly sedate, consisting primarily of a large stainless steel "tapestry" by artist Tomas Osinski that is covered with Gehry's sketch of Normandy (Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II, Eisenhower led the invasion of Normandy) and large stone blocks that serve as backdrops to bronze sculptures depicting Ike and others. The memorial sits one block south of the National Mall, on a rectangular parcel that is bisected by the diagonal line of Maryland Avenue SW. While the road does not continue through the site, Gehry left an open vista toward the Capitol to the east, articulating that line in the landscaping.

Site plan of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial (Drawing courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission)

Following the formal dedication on Thursday, September 17, the National Park Service will assume operation of the memorial, which opens to the public on Friday, September 18.

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