Topics: House of Representatives

House committee votes to reopen design process for Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

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The movement to derail the Frank Gehry design plan for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial took a big step forward Wednesday, when a House subcommittee approved a bill that would begin a new selection process for the monument's design.

The full House of Representatives will next consider the bill, though it's not clear when it will be taken up.

"I have become concerned that unless we make changes in this memorial, it will never take place," Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said during Wednesday's markup section in the House Natural Resources Committee. "I want some new eyes to look at the situation."

The legislation would institute another design competition with a newly appointed commission.

Opposition to the four-acre design plan created by Gehry, a world-renowned architect, has grown to include the Eisenhower family.

"The positions now are fairly deadlocked, and when that happens, paralysis occurs," Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower and a spokeswoman for the family, told The Washington Examiner on Wednesday afternoon. "When the alignment is ridged, something has to happen to change the dynamic, so we really welcome this legislation as one way to do that."

During Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., defended the process that selected the design. He argued that the design's selection process had allowed for experts to make an independent selection.

The congressman joined other defenders of the design by emphasizing the sanctity of the selection process over a defense of the Gehry design.

The $142 million plan calls for 80-foot stainless-steel tapestries with images reflecting the former World War II general and president. The design for the site at Independence and Maryland avenues SW just off the National Mall has faced a number of objections, including concerns about whether the sprawling memorial properly reflects the character of the president that it is celebrating.

There also have been questions about the durability of the metal tapestries.

"It's not made of marble or granite; it's made of steel," Bishop said. "We still do not know if it is durable or not."

Ultimately, though, Bishop said he would like to see a new group of people. If a new group selected the same design, Bishop said he would accept that decision.

He also hoped for an accounting of how the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission had spent $63 million that Congress has already allocated to the project.

Although Grijalva voiced opposition to the initial bill, the legislation passed committee with a voice vote -- often a sign that a bill lacks fierce opposition.

Grijalva described it as "a very delicate situation in that you're honoring one of the great Americans and icons historically of this nation."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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