- - Thursday, July 9, 2015


I don’t doubt architect Frank Gehry’s intention to do right by the life and legacy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But the star architect, after a long and notorious career, is much too set in his ways as a peddler of the iconoclastic and intentionally absurd — and this is demonstrated by his proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial, to be placed along the National Mall in Washington. Now Congress, the Eisenhower family and informed citizens everywhere agree that “Ike” deserves a reset. Demands for the current design to be quickly (and quietly) pushed through owing, supposedly, to the time and money already invested, are invalid. The total cost of the memorial is expected to exceed $140 million by completion — more in today’s money than the cost of building the Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Grant monuments combined. Despite the urgent tone of the project’s few passionate supporters in Congress, only a complete overhaul — including a new designer — could have it finished in time to be witnessed by the nation’s oldest veterans.

Some may defend Mr. Gehry based on the historical controversies surrounding several now-beloved national displays. However, Maya Lin’s winning design of the oft-invoked Vietnam Veterans Memorial, whatever the outcry of the early 1980s, has come to be cherished for its beauty and its subtlety — two characteristics that will never be celebrated in Mr. Gehry’s work, because Mr. Gehry openly denounces them. Predictably, so does his vision for the Eisenhower monument.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial project has been extremely dodgy, expensive and unpopular under the direction of Mr. Gehry and the commission that selected him. Greater national attention must be brought to this fight to honor one of America’s most enduring heroes. Will Ike’s memorial end up an icon or an embarrassment?


Austin, Texas

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