Granted, and thankfully, “this wall” has not been built yet, but the design by Frank Gehry for a proposed memorial to Dwight Eisenhower should be scrapped. A new competition should be held. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts recently took over as chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, so he’s in a good position to bring about a new competition.
Sam Roche, of Right By Ike, a group that opposes the Gehry design, has written a piece making that point for the Kansas City Star. “Sen. Pat Roberts can save the Eisenhower Memorial project in Washington,” traces how Gehry has produced a divisive design for a man whose leadership style exalted consensus, how its bloated cost of $144 million flies in the face of Ike’s “careful stewardship of the public purse,” and how Gehry’s selection, even if not downright corrupt, violated the normal open competitive process for public memorials of this sort. Roche concludes:
The commission’s radical departure from proven public process and fiscal restraint has made the Eisenhower Memorial a symbol of the bureaucratic waste and abuse of power its subject railed against. Organizers of the next national memorial in Washington — to World War I — just announced it will be designed through the usual public competition, open to anyone.
President Eisenhower deserves no less. Public competitions are standard practice because they build consensus through public participation. Already that sounds like a more fitting tribute to Dwight Eisenhower.
As things stand, the design is more about Gehry than about Ike. And Gehry has vowed to disown the project if his signature “tapestries” – huge metal scrims that resemble an old Gehry design for a parking garage – are removed. That’s how he reacted when Rep. Darrell Issa has called for their removal as a potential compromise. Congress has put a halt to funding for the memorial, and seems in no mood to reopen the spigot.
The Eisenhower family and many others have called for a new, open competition. Let’s hope that Senator Roberts sees the wisdom of such a course. Here is “A Gehryesque critique” on AIA editor Ned Cramer’s editorial, last October.