Eisenhower Memorial battle heading to Capitol Hill

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Photo - Eisenhower Memorial Pedestrian Experience.
Model image courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP, 2012.
(‘The Elder Statesman’ photograph from an original print by Yousuf Karsh, 1966).
Eisenhower Memorial Pedestrian Experience. Model image courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP, 2012. (‘The Elder Statesman’ photograph from an original print by Yousuf Karsh, 1966).
Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

In 100 years, will gigantic metal tapestries designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry memorialize the great World War II general and former president Dwight Eisenhower?

That future will be up for debate Tuesday on Capitol Hill during a hearing on the $142 million project.

Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing the memorial, wants to halt funding, scrutinize spending so far and delegate a commission to re-evaluate the design.

"I would hope that a reappointed commission could bring other people together so it's not quite as controversial as it is," Bishop, a Republican, told The Washington Examiner. "There are some parts of the design that I struggle to accept."

The current Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial design calls for 80-foot-tall stainless steel tapestries on a 4-acre site at Independence and Maryland avenues SW.

Bishop has put forward a bill that calls for the selection of a new design. But, he said Friday, if a new commission evaluated the design proposals and re-endorsed the Gehry design, he would accept it.

Justin Shubow, chairman of the National Civic Art Society, one of the project's fiercest critics, was giddy Friday afternoon. "I think this bill is a huge sign that Congress now realizes that this design can no longer go forward, that they are concerned about the design, the process, the expense and the durability," he said. "It's time to scrap this avant-garde boondoggle and start over."

As opposition to the Eisenhower Memorial design mounts, the American Institute of Architects came to the defense of the process, but not necessarily the project.

"The AIA doesn't have a view on the design itself," said Andrew Goldberg, the institute's managing director for government relations and outreach. "For any kind of memorial, there is a process in place, a process to get a number of ideas and to select one -- and that process is what has been going on. You don't want Congress inserting itself and making design decisions."

In November, Eisenhower's son wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., opposing the memorial as it is currently designed.

Susan Eisenhower, the president's granddaughter, declined to comment Friday, saying she was waiting until after the family delivers testimony at Tuesday's hearing.

For his part, Eisenhower Memorial Commission Chairman Rocco Siciliano defended the memorial's design.

"Our commissioners, representing both parties across this great nation, have selected a prominent site and an appropriate, meaningful design by the world's most celebrated living architect, Frank Gehry," he wrote. "This bill by Congressman Bishop insults their efforts and the great legacy of Eisenhower, in whose administration I served."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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