Member of Eisenhower Memorial panel says troubled design is dead

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 18, 2014 5:06 PM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A member of the commission overseeing construction of the Eisenhower Memorial said on Friday the controversial design by celebrity architect Frank Gehry should be scrapped.

Commissioner Bruce Cole said Gehry's design of the memorial to Dwight Eisenhower, the World War Two military leader and 34th president, had generated too much opposition, especially with Congress withholding construction funds for two years in a row.

Asked at a Capitol Hill briefing by opponents of Gehry's plan if he thought the proposal was dead, Cole said: "Yes."

Cole, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, added: "I'd prefer to see a fitting and proper memorial to Ike (Eisenhower), and that's not the Gehry design."

Congress authorized a memorial in 1999, and the Eisenhower commission picked Gehry's design in 2009. The plan for the four-acre site includes columns 80 feet high supporting stainless steel tapestries depicting the landscape of Eisenhower's boyhood home, Kansas.

The commission estimates the cost at $142 million, including $65 million for construction. About $29 million to $30 million has been spent so far.

The National Capital Planning Commission rejected the design in April, with objections centering largely on the towers. It told Gehry's team to come back with a revamped plan.

The 12-member Eisenhower Memorial Commission has not met in more than a year. Cole, appointed by President Barack Obama this year, said he had spoken only occasionally to other members about the Gehry design.

Asked about Cole's comments, commission Executive Director Carl Reddel said, "That's not the view of the majority of the commission members." He said the panel was projected to meet in September.

A spokesman for Gehry's office in Los Angeles had no immediate comment.