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“Abilene serves as a reminder that out of difficult circumstance come character, innovation, and even greatness,” Gehry wrote in a letter laying out his vision. “Eisenhower’s modest, pastoral roots are represented on the tapestries that surround the memorial and set the stage for the memorial core.”
The Eisenhower family has publicly criticized the design, and some members of Congress have shown resistance to proceeding with the current plan. Responding to the concerns, Gehry has continued to modify the design, and the EMC continues to brief the federal bodies on its latest blueprints.
In September, the commission backed out of an NCPC meeting upon realizing that it wouldn’t win preliminary design approval. At the November CFA meeting, the memorial commission brought along small-scale models of Gehry’s latest proposal for landscaping, statues, colonnades and tapestries.
To Teresita Fernández, another CFA commissioner, the spread looked like a “timid approach” that “lacks some sort of integrity in terms of volume.” She also called the reference to the prairie “very cryptic.”
The design also faced fresh scrutiny for the stainless steel material of the tapestry. Federal planners have questioned the durability and longevity of the material.
Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society and an outspoken design critic, revealed an NPS report that suggests two 45-square-feet tapestry panels on each of the three tapestries will need to be replaced every five years.
The EMC plans to be back in front of the CFA in January, with more details on its design. In the meantime, an EMC spokesperson said, the commission will review the comments and criticism.