Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial
|Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial (planned)|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
|Location||District of Columbia, U.S.|
|Nearest city||Washington, D.C.|
|Governing body||Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission|
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is a planned United States presidential memorial to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States. On October 25, 1999, the United States Congress created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission under Public Law 106-79, and charged it with creating "...an appropriate permanent memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower...to perpetuate his memory and his contributions to the United States." A preliminary design by architect Frank Gehry proved highly controversial. After several years of hearings and several design changes, the memorial's revised design won approval from the United States Commission of Fine Arts but was denied approval by the National Capital Planning Commission. Although support for a memorial per se is strong, that for the design is less so.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission consists of 12 appointed commissioners. Four members are appointed by the President of the United States. They are:
- Rocco C. Siciliano (Beverly Hills, CA) - Chairman
- Susan Banes Harris (Potomac, MD) - Vice Chairman
- Alfred Geduldig (New York, NY)
- Bruce Cole (Fairfax, VA)
Four members are appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate. They are:
- Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
- Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island)
- Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
- Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)
Four members are appointed by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. They are:
- William (Mac) Thornberry (R-Texas)
- Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)
- Sanford Bishop, Jr. (D-Georgia)
- Mike Thompson (D-California)
Chairman Rocco Siciliano is a World War II combat-decorated infantry veteran who served as Special Assistant to President Eisenhower for Personnel Management. The original vice chairman was Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient for valor who represented Hawaii in Congress from the time President Eisenhower signed Hawaiian statehood into law in 1959 until 2012. Senator Inouye died in 2012, and was replaced by Susan Banes Harris. Harris, who also chairs the Commission's architecture committee, is an attorney and former lobbyist. Alfred Geduldig works in public relations and is a former lobbyist. Bruce Cole is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., a trustee of Indiana University, and a former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities who has published 14 books on art and architecture.
Public Law 107-117 (January 10, 2002) authorized the commission to establish the memorial on lands under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of the Interior. Once constructed, the Eisenhower Memorial will fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Eisenhower Memorial will be only the seventh national presidential memorial in U.S. history.
A total of 26 sites were identified to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission (EMC) and reviewed during its three-year site selection process. The criteria for choosing a site for the memorial included:
- Prominence, public access, and availability.
- Thematic appropriateness to Eisenhower's memory.
- Feasibility of use and avoidance of undue controversy.
The commission identified the unnamed plaza bounded by Maryland Avenue SW, 4th Street SW, and 6th Street SW as its preferred site. The plaza is separated from Independence Avenue SW and the National Air and Space Museum by Seaton Section Park, and is adjacent to the north side of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building. The plaza is surrounded by institutions connected to Eisenhower's legacy, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Voice of America, and the National Air and Space Museum. The location is also just three blocks from the United States Capitol. The commission requested that the site be named "Eisenhower Square" once the memorial is built.
On November 8, 2005, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission approved the Eisenhower Memorial Commission's request that the Eisenhower Memorial be located at the preferred site.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission (EMC) contracted for professional architectural and engineering design services through the General Services Administration (GSA). The Commission chose to run the competition according to GSA's Design Excellence Program, which was created to hire architects for federal office buildings and courthouses.
In March 2012, Chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa launched an investigation into the competition, which the National Civic Art Society and others have alleged was rigged. Both Congressmen and members of the public have criticized the competition for being undemocratic. This includes Paul D. Spreiregen, who was the professional advisor for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial competition and is a former chairman of the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Competitions. Edward A. Feiner, the former chief architect of GSA who created the Design Excellence Program, also objected to the memorial competition for being a closed competition.
On March 25, 2010, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission unanimously selected the preferred design concept created by Frank O. Gehry and the commission and design team completed its first round of meetings with federal review agencies.
Maryland Avenue runs through the site with a vista that focuses on the U.S. Capitol Building.
The setting for the four-acre memorial will be framed by giant welded steel tapestries supported by columns 80-feet tall by 11-feet wide. The largest tapestry will extend nearly the entire city-block length of the Department of Education Building. The images on the tapestry depict will the plains of the American Midwest where Eisenhower grew up. Elements of Eisenhower’s home in Abilene, Kansas will be included, according to the commission.
Gehry’s tapestry design received unanimous concept approval from United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on September 15, 2011, including affirmation that the scale and artistry are appropriate. The Department of Education originally questioned the tapestries. However, following revisions and meetings including the review of tapestry mock-ups, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote that the U.S. Department of Education is “…supportive of the memorial design as it now stands”. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) also expressed support for the design but has not yet given preliminary approval. The Architect of the Capitol has endorsed Gehry’s design revision, and “applauds the decision, courage, and commitment of time” that the design team has given to the Section 106 Consultation Meeting process, noting that there are no negative impacts on the view and vista of the U.S. Capitol.
The commission's preferred design concept approved in March 2010, which included Commissioner David Eisenhower's approval (Dwight Eisenhower's grandson), represents Eisenhower as president and general through large stone bas reliefs and text. Although final images and quotations are still under consideration, the leading alternative image representing the general is General Eisenhower with 101st Airborne troops prior to the D-Day invasion in June 1944.
Memorials in Washington have historically been controversial. The design has been severely criticized by the president's son John Eisenhower and granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, who said her entire family opposes it. Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe's architecture critic, said about the design, "It’s way too big. It’s too cartoony. Someone should scrub the design and start over." Roger L. Lewis, an architect and a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, criticised and opposed the design in the Washington Post: "Building a quasi-fenced precinct makes no sense. The narrative theme relating to Eisenhower’s boyhood, so visually dominant in the present design, also makes no sense. Gehry instead could craft a less grandiose yet visually powerful memorial composition..." Columnist Richard Cohen wrote that the Memorial does not accurately capture Eisenhower's life. George F. Will also opposed the design in the Washington Post. The design has been criticised in The New Republic, National Review, Foreign Policy, Metropolis Magazine, The American Spectator, and The Washington Examiner.
While some have expressed criticism, others have voiced support for the design. Philip Kennicott, the Washington Post culture critic, praised the design: "Gehry has produced a design that inverts several of the sacred hierarchies of the classical memorial, emphasizing ideas of domesticity and interiority rather than masculine power and external display. He has 're-gendered' the vocabulary of memorialization, giving it new life and vitality." Former member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Witold Rybczynski, whose critique of the memorial appeared in The New York Times, praised the concept of the roofless building and defended the size of the tapestries: "Mr. Gehry and his collaborators have developed hand-weaving techniques so that the screens really do resemble tapestries. Having seen full-size mock-ups of the screens on the site, I am convinced that their size will not be out of scale with the surroundings." David Childs, former chair of both the National Capital Planning Commission and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, wrote to Congress in support of the design.
Landscape architects Laurie Olin and William Pedersen have called the design a worthy tribute to a great national leader that is "in sympathy with the character of Washington, D.C." The Washington Post editorial board also endorsed the project, noting that "Mr. Gehry's proposal promises to be a wonderful addition to the face of the Mall, a vision Washington is lucky to have. Moving forward, Congress should authorize these plans as quickly as possible so the memorial can proceed on schedule. As entertaining as these squabbles have often been, enough is enough already." Television producer Norman Lear expressed praise for Frank Gehry, citing Gehry's original concept of tracing the journey of a young man from Kansas to the pinnacles of success as a warrior and the leader of a great nation as "the very best way to illustrate President Eisenhower's significant achievements..." Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic, Paul Goldberger, lauded Frank Gehry in a Vanity Fair article for earnestly attempting to commemorate Eisenhower.
The National Eisenhower Memorial will be the first national presidential memorial of the 21st century and the first to incorporate an electronic companion memorial. The e-memorial consists of an on-site component and an off-site (website) component. The on-site e-memorial uses wireless technology and personal mobile devices to provide interactive enhancement for the physical memorial and the electronic interpretation of the memorial’s themes. A downloadable mobile device application will enable visitors to view historical footage, speeches, and events in the context of the physical memorial through augmented reality, akin to a video game. The off-site component is web-based and provides further information on and interpretation of Eisenhower’s legacy, including links to the six legacy organizations and information about their programs. Both components are flexible enough to be updated as the Eisenhower legacy continues to be interpreted.
The e-memorial provides an innovative and technologically advanced way for a contemporary audience to understand a memorial dedicated to a president whose legacy will reach far into the future.
The e-memorial will be completed and dedicated with the physical memorial on Memorial Day 2017.
As with previous presidential memorials, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission received federal funding to begin the construction in 2012. However, Congress appropriated no construction funding for fiscal year 2013. The memorial is projected to cost $142 million, at least 80% of which will come from taxpayers.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission is working with fundraising firm Odell, Simms, and Lynch (OSL) to engage with the public to obtain donations for memorial construction. A promotion in the capital campaign gives donors the opportunity to meet with Gehry in return for a donation of $3 million or more.
The Commission said it plans to open the Memorial on Memorial Day, May 25, 2017, the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II.
In December 2011, David Eisenhower resigned from the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. As the family's representative, Commissioner Eisenhower voted three times in favor of the preferred design concept, including most recently at the July 2011 Commission meeting. However, he now opposes the memorial design.
In January 2012, the National Civic Art Society published The Gehry Towers Over Eisenhower: The National Civic Art Society Report on the Eisenhower Memorial, which was  Quoted in a front-page New York Times story, the report is a book-length critique of the memorial's competition, design, and agency approval. The Washington Post said the report received "a remarkable amount of attention, offering talking points for conservative columnists and critics." Writing in Better! Cities & Towns, Philip Langdon called the report "scathing" and said it included "devastating pieces of information."
In May 2012, in response to public and congressional criticism Gehry proposed additional modifications to the memorial and the Eisenhower Commission published new mock-ups by his firm on its website.
On July 18, 2013, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the general concept of the memorial in a 3-1 vote.
In August 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Bruce Cole to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Cole had previously criticized Gehry's design in articles and congressional testimony. Cole serves on the board of advisors for the National Civic Art Society.
On September 8, 2013, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission cancelled its appearance before National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) meeting scheduled for September 12. The Eisenhower Commission explained, "We have decided to forego appearing before NCPC on Sept. 12 in the belief that the next few months would be better spent satisfying the concerns addressed in the EDR [NCPC's Executive Director’s Recommendation." According to the Washington Post, the NCPC recommendation "calls the testing of the memorial materials insufficient, takes issue with the scale and placement of the columns and tapestries, and raises questions about whether the design fulfills its aim to be an 'urban park.'"
The Continuing Resolution approved by Congress on October 16, 2013 zeroed all construction funding and prohibited starting construction. It also required that all funding necessary to complete construction be in place before construction begins.
On November 21, 2013, the memorial went before the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, where commissioners critiqued the design, which did not receive approval. Commissioner Alex Krieger, Professor in Practice of Urban Design at Harvard Graduate School of Design, said the design would fail as a “traditional first-semester architecture exercise.” Also in November, a "weary" Gehry told the Financial Times, “I don’t know whether [the memorial] will get built.” The New York Times reported that "The project’s fate is uncertain."
Congress's fiscal year 2014 omnibus bill appropriated only $1 million to the project instead of the requested $51 million, which halves the Eisenhower Commission's annual operating budget. The bill effectively blocks construction until the next round of appropriations. According to a Roll Call article titled "Eisenhower Memorial Losing Support in Congress," the bill "zeroes out federal funding for construction and asks for a progress report on private fundraising efforts."
On April 3, 2014, the National Capital Planning Commission voted 7-to-3 to deny preliminary approval of the memorial. The NCPC said it was supportive of a memorial, but rejected the current design because it failed to preserve the vista along Maryland Avenue SW, failed to preserve the view of the U.S. Capitol building, did not meet the L'Enfant Plan's requirements for preserving open space, and did not "[respect] the building lines of the surrounding rights-of-way". At the request of Representative Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the NCPC asked the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to report back to it every two months on its memorial redesign.
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- Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission
- National Capital Planning Commission September 12, 2013 Eisenhower Memorial Executive Director's Report
- National Capital Planning Commission September 12, 2013 Eisenhower Memorial Project Synopsis
- Public Law 106-79
- Public Law 107-117
- C-SPAN Video of March 20, 2012 House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Hearing on the Eisenhower Memorial
- Video of March 19, 2013 House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Hearing on H.R. 1126, the "Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act"