Column: The ground game against modernism


Original design by Beaux Arts Atelier student Marileny Peralta of an acanthus leaf and egg-and-dart bookend with the finished product, also by Ms. Peralta, made of hydrocal.

Little noticed amid last month’s shutdown in Washington was Congress’s shutdown of funding for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s proposed modernist monument for the 34th president, designed by Frank Gehry and expected to cost $142 million, mostly in federal tax dollars.

True, the commission still has $22 million in its pocket, so it will continue to swim against the tide of public taste, critical opinion and the opposition of the Eisenhower family. But eventually it will die the death of a thousand congressional cuts. One of those may come from a House investigation into alleged irregularities in the hiring of Gehry — who just happened to have worked three earlier jobs hand in glove with Rocco Siciliano, Gehry’s fellow Californian, Beverly Hills attorney, former assistant labor secretary under Eisenhower and chairman of the Ike memorial commission.

The Gehry design could in theory arise from the dead, but President Obama has appointed Bruce Cole to the commission. He is a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and also a leading critic of the design. What does that say?

Keeping Gehry out of Washington would be a signal achievement. Architecture’s chief purpose, aside from housing humans and their activities, is to create a built environment conducive to a healthy public life. Beauty was a key factor in how this goal was achieved for millennia. Would anyone say that ditching beauty in favor of novelty has created more lovable or healthier cities for the world?

Read the rest of the column in The Providence Journal

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to Column: The ground game against modernism

  1. Marileny says:

    Thank you very much! It is an absolute honor to be featured in your blog!


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