Eisenhower Family Still Unhappy with Gehry’s Memorial Design

May 31, 2012

By Ben Adler

Eisenhower Memorial
Image courtesy EMC

The Eisenhower family approves of recent changes but remains unhappy with the large metal tapestries.


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Ever since Gehry Partners unveiled changes to its design for the national memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower on May 15, the big question has been whether the Eisenhower family will now support the design. The adjustments, such as changing bas reliefs to statues and making one statue depict Eisenhower as a young man instead of boy, were made in response to complaints from the Eisenhowers that the 34th president was not properly honored in the original scheme.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Eisenhowers finally shared their opinion: They remain dissatisfied. In a statement published on the website of the president’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, the family thanked Gehry and his colleagues for responding to their concerns and said they approved of the changes, but they are still unhappy with the large stainless steel tapestries.

“From our perspective, many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed," they wrote. “The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive. Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing-yet-unpredictable life-cycle costs.”

In an interview on Thursday with Architectural Record, Susan Eisenhower reiterated her family’s strong belief that these issues must be addressed before the design is approved. “Our mantra here is simple: sustainable and affordable, in keeping with granddad’s legacy,” she said. She did not elaborate on what additional design changes would help gain their endorsement.

Members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission (EMC) have expressed support for the revised design and an eagerness to move forward. The commission is taking a glass-half-full attitude toward the family’s recent remarks. “We’re pleased that they seemed to like the changes,” said Chris Cimko, an EMC spokeswoman, adding that the positive comments indicate that a consensus may eventually be reached. The EMC contends that the tapestries will hold up over time. “We have a shared concern [with the Eisenhowers] about sustainability and durability,” Cimko said. “That’s why we have done extensive testing using mock-ups of the tapestries.”  

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