The National Capital Planning Commission gave preliminary design approval with a 10-to-1 vote. However,the commission questioned parts of Frank Gehry’s design and asked the architect’s company to keep revising.
The site for the memorial is along Independence Avenue,in front of the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education Building and across the street from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. The plot is four acres,and the memorial would eliminate 70 parking spaces,a mid-block intersection and a set of community gardens.
Congress approved the plan to make a memorial in honor of Eisenhower in 1999,and a commission to manage the planning and construction was set up in 2002. A design competition was held,and Gehry Partners LLP was picked in 2009. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the preliminary design in 2011. What the memorial should look like and contain has been debated ever since.
While Gehry thought the tapestries and columns would add integrity to the memorial,Eisenhower’s granddaughters,Susan and Anne,opposed the design and wanted something simpler. Gehry did not want to associate himself with the design if the tapestries and columns could not be included.
The updated plan has removed two stainless steel tapestries that would have kept pedestrians from seeing the Capitol. However,the plan still includes a tapestry at the far edge of the memorial and two 80-foot columns that stand alone. NCPC members debated the purpose of these columns – some said they looked like smokestacks,while others said they gave the memorial a powerful look and would draw in visitors.
Commissioners said they also want views of the Washington Monument to be preserved.
Eleven members of the public were allowed to give their opinions about the memorial at Thursday’s meeting.
“What we need is a design that is not nearly technically OK,or one that is just barely passable,like some C-minus student who just squeaks by. This is a one-and-only chance to get this memorial right,” Shubow said. “Eisenhower would never settle for mediocrity,and neither should we.”
Paul X. Kelley,the retired Commandant of Marine Corps,said the memorial’s present design would honor Eisenhower and be an inspiration for the younger generation.
“There are a lot of young people out there who need role models,and by God,if he is not one I don’t know who is. Please,motivate these young people with all of the good things that you are doing,” he said.
Shane Dettman,director of Urban Design and Plan Review at NCPC,agreed that further revision of the design is needed,such as allowing more open areas on the part of Maryland Avenue that will become a pedestrian walkway. He said that circulation,security and lighting issues still need to be addressed.
The next step for the memorial is to get design approval from the CFA. A date for review has not been set.
Reach reporter Lorain Watters at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.