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Group makes video case against Eisenhower Memorial

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

The National Monument Foundation released a video opposing Frank Gehry's plan for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, featuring a new three-dimensional rendering of the controversial design.

The video opens with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" as a narrator describes Eisenhower's many achievements, before turning its attention to the proposed $142 million memorial for the World War II general and two-term president.

The video labels the plan "too controversial" and "too expensive." Then, it offers a tour, of sorts, to the planned memorial. It pays particular attention to the 80-foot high metal tapestries that have been a central focus of opponents, including John Eisenhower, the general's only surviving child, and his daughter Susan.

The short video also highlights the relatively small stature of a planned statue of Eisenhower when compared with the metal screens that would depict parts of the former president's life.

Rodney Mims Cook Jr., president of the National Monuments Foundation, which created the video, testified before Congress in March. He called on Congress to scrap Gehry's design.

Cook said the National Monument Foundation, an Atlanta-based group that supports classical architecture, created the video to give people a chance to form their own opinions about the plan.

"We've done it in order for the American people and the Congress to see what is about to be foisted on [them] for perpetuity," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission slammed the foundation in an email.

"[T]his is another regurgitation of previously stated and false claims about the memorial by people who aspire to hijack the memorial effort for their own purposes and self-aggrandizement," wrote Chris Kelley Cimko, a spokeswoman for the commission. "The only thing they got right is that Ike was a great man and he deserves a great memorial, which Frank Gehry has designed, the Commission of Fine Arts has approved and Congress has funded."

Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, which has actively campaigned against the Gehry design, called the video "a powerful demonstration of what's wrong with the memorial."

If anything, he said, the film did not go far enough.

"One thing that they didn't even go into was the closed, undemocratic competition that chose Gehry," Shubow said.

Continued funding for the memorial hangs in the balance as Congress prepares its next budget, and Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop has introduced legislation that would scrap the current plan and restart the selection process.

The American Institute of Architects, an eminent architectural group, has called on Congress to stick to the design that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission selected.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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