Two weeks after the redesign of the concept for a memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower was revealed to the public, the family of the former president and World War II hero remains reticent.
In a statement released today, the Eisenhower family reiterated its request that the 11-member Memorial Commission hold off on its plans to move forward with the design by architect Frank Gehry until all stakeholders are satisfied.
“Many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed,” the family members said in their statement.
In particular, the statue of Eisenhower that was to depict him as a child will now present him as a young man, and the bas-reliefs will now be three-dimensional statues: One depicting Eisenhower speaking with 101st Airborne division soldiers at Normandy; another showing the former president as depicted in the 1966 photo “The Elder Statesman” taken by Yousuf Karsh.
“The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive,” the statement continued. “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. ... For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them.”
The Eisenhowers are joined in their opposition by some outside groups, including the National Civic Art Society.
It is not immediately clear how Gehry will respond to the concerns. He has consistently defended his design, approach and vision for how to honor Eisenhower on the National Mall, while accommodating some suggestions for changes.
The commission expressed unanimous support for Gehry’s design at a public meeting earlier this month where the revised models were on display.
The panel, which includes eight Members of Congress, is also eager to move the process along. It has already postponed one meeting with the National Capital Planning Commission, the agency that must green light the proposal before groundbreaking can begin, and the rescheduled July 12 hearing is approaching.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Ga.) said that in light of testimony before the panel of which he is chairman — the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands — he was prepared to ask appropriators to withhold money for the project.
“I remain concerned that taxpayer dollars will be used to fund construction of a memorial to President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower despite the fact that his family has expressed concern and opposition to major design components,” Bishop said in a statement. "Until a consensus can be reached, I support the family’s request to hold off on moving forward with the project."
The move would be a blow to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which has not yet begun to solicit private donations for the undertaking.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.