George Weigel, the religious philosopher, replays the sad saga of the proposed memorial for Dwight Eisenhower in his essay “Ike Memorial No-Brainer,” from the National Review. Weigel urges Congress to dump Frank Gehry’s “Memorial To Myself” design that has already enriched Gehry by $16 million in federal funds and promises to top out at $150 million if this farce continues. Weigel suggests holding a new competition and mentions the recent World War I memorial competition that called for a budget under $25 million. It will rise on what is now Pershing Park, near the White House. Weigel notes that the memorial is “now being built,” but further investiga- tion suggests that construction won’t begin until Nov. 11, 2018.
Hmm. The image above is not Gehry’s Ike, of course. Nor is it the WWI memorial design that may or may not be under construction (that’s on the bottom). Rather, it is the WWI memorial design that should have won the competition. It holds pride of place atop this post because I wanted to look at it again. It was the better design. Perhaps I am biased because I helped its architect, Devin Kimmel, of Annapolis, write the text for his entry’s Phase II presentation to the judges. Still, I was in love with that design, more so, at least, than I can recall feeling for any other unbuilt building or monument I’ve known, except maybe for the World Trade Center rebuild proposed by the firm of Franck, Lohsen, McCrery in the Autumn 2001 City Journal.
I just read the report of the jury on the Kimmel design. The jurors’ com- plaint, that it was too big, recalls Austrian Emperor Josef II’s complaint that Mozart’s music had “too many notes.” Perhaps, too, the jury, in slyly pooh- poohing the memorial’s classicism, was hinting that a war memorial in the language of a war memorial might be a little too much.
The winning entry by architect Joe Weishaar and sculptor Sabin Howard is not bad. It is a mixture of classical bas-reliefs etched upon stark, one might almost say modernist, walls that elevate a lawn whose center boasts a sculp- ture of a cannon crew aiming what looks too much like a Civil War-era field piece. But it is mainly a park and its role as a memorial hardly leaps out at you. Apparently, that is what the memorial commission had in mind.