The Eisenhower family released a statement Wednesday saying the recent changes to the design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial didn’t go far enough to address their objections and asked for more time “to break the impasse.”
The statement, published on Susan Eisenhower’s website, is the first time the family has spoken out since famed architect Frank Gehry revealed his changes to the plan on May 15 during a meeting of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.
“From our perspective, many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed,” the statement said. “The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive. Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs. This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial’s ‘backdrop,’ is impractical and unnecessary for the conceptual narrative. For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them.”
Members of the Eisenhower family have repeatedly expressed concerns about the towering stainless steel tapestries that border the four-acre site at Independence and Maryland avenues, saying they fear it will easily weather and add to the cost of a memorial that’s already coming with an estimated $100 million price tag.
Gehry’s redesign kept the tapestries intact. However, he scrapped a statue depicting the president and World War II supreme commander as a boy in favor of a rendition depicting Eisenhower as a young cadet in response to the family’s concerns. Gehry also added two other statues flanking the cadet: One is Eisenhower 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 memorial commission, which is tasked with approving the design, applauded the changes at the meeting.
Chris Cimko, a spokeswoman for the commission, said Wednesday that the panel is “absolutely delighted that the family’s happy with the new design.” As for the tapestries’ sustainability, Cimko said that was a “shared concern,” which is why the commission had ordered longevity testing on the metal.
The commissioners previously said they would wait for input from the Eisenhowers before they scheduled a vote on the design. No vote has been scheduled yet, Cimko said Wednesday.
If approved, the memorial would then go before the National Capital Planning Commission, which deals more with city planning concerns than aesthetics.