The panel tasked with approving the design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial applauded the changes famed architect Frank Gehry made to the plan even as one of the elements most objectionable to the Eisenhower family remained untouched.
Gehry's changes were unveiled Tuesday on Capitol Hill, at a meeting of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which selected the Los Angeles-based architect for the task two years ago. In response to the Eisenhower family's concerns about the statue depicting the president and World Ward II supreme commander as a boy, Gehry scrapped that figure in favor of a rendition depicting Eisenhower as a young cadet.
The towering stainless steel tapestries that border the 4-acre site across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum remain intact, however. The Eisenhower family has expressed concerns about metal, saying they fear it will easily weather over the years and add to the cost of a memorial that's already coming with an estimated $100 million price tag.
|Rocco Siciliano (chairman): Beverly Hills, Calif.-based attorney, former chairman of Dwight D. Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, served in Eisenhower administration|
|Daniel Inouye (vice chairman): U.S. senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran|
|Jack Reed: U.S. senator from Rhode Island, West Point alumnus|
|Pat Roberts: U.S. senator from Kansas, recipient of 2004 Eisenhower Leadership Award|
|Jerry Moran: U.S. senator from Kansas, home district includes Eisenhower birthplace in Abilene|
|Leonard Boswell: U.S. representative from Iowa, Vietnam veteran|
|Mike Simpson: U.S. representative from Idaho|
|Mac Thornberry: U.S. representative from Texas|
|Sanford Bishop Jr.: U.S. representative from Georgia|
|Alfred Geduldig: New York-based communications consultant|
|Susan Banes Harris: Potomac-based attorney and legislative affairs specialist|
But the unveiling Tuesday, presented by two representatives from Gehry's firm, got kudos from every commission member who spoke.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he appreciated the cadet statue and that children would find inspiration in the president's achievements.
"[It says] look at what a small-town youngster can achieve in America," Roberts said, adding later, "It has my support."
Two other statues of Eisenhower flank the young cadet: One is a scene with him as a general addressing his troops, the other is of him as president. Both older depictions are based on well-known photographs of Eisenhower.
The Eisenhower family was invited to the meeting but was unable to attend, and members of the family were not reachable for comment.
Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, which opposes the Gehry design, said he doubted the stainless steel tapestries would keep their luster because the concept has only been used before in modern building designs.
"We're talking about a permanent memorial here," he said.
Commissioners did not vote on the design, saying they wanted more time to consider the changes and input from the Eisenhowers.
If approved, the memorial would then go before the National Capital Planning Commission, which deals more with city planning concerns than aesthetics. But Shubow said the potential cost of maintaining the tapestries could affect the commission's decision.