Gehry reveals new details for Eisenhower Memorial

AP News
Posted: Oct 06, 2011 7:06 PM
Gehry reveals new details for Eisenhower Memorial

Images of trees and grain silos evoking President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Kansas home are part of the latest design architect Frank Gehry presented Thursday for a memorial to the 34th president in the nation's capital.

Gehry plans to use woven metal tapestries featuring photographs to frame a memorial park being built to honor to Eisenhower about a block off of the National Mall. The memorial will be the first work in Washington by the architect who's world famous for his striking structures with undulating exteriors.

Some changes to the design have been made in response to concerns by federal officials that it would block views of the Capitol.

At a meeting on the design, Gehry discussed how architects settled on using photographs that depict the Kansas town of Abilene where "Ike" grew up. They once considered using an image from the D-Day landings that Eisenhower led as Allied commander in World War II, which Gehry said would focus too much on war. Images of Eisenhower as president or general seemed too much like a billboard, another project architect said.

"I've read everything I could find about him, and he kept referring to Abilene," Gehry said. "He talks about the barefoot boy who went on this odyssey."

The photographic images would be woven in metal but would still be transparent to the eye.

Smaller features inside the plaza would depict Eisenhower as president and general, perhaps with sculptures, along with some of his quotations in a park landscaped with sycamore trees native to Kansas.

Now Gehry must convince a federal panel to approve the design in a vote later this year. Members of the National Capital Planning Commission repeated strong reservations Thursday over the scale of the massive 80-foot-tall columns measuring 11 feet in diameter that would hold up the tapestries.

Gehry proposed trimming the length of one tapestry and making the columns skinnier by a foot in diameter. He also turned two of the tapestries to frame the park on three sides.

Some workers at the Education Department have objected because the main tapestry would be stretched outside the building's front doors. Some worried it would block their sunlight.

"The transparency (of the tapestries) is what we're counting on so that it won't be overwhelming," Gehry said.

Harriet Tregoning, who represents the District of Columbia on the panel, said the idea for using tapestries was "dazzling." The columns holding them up, though, are "gargantuan," she said, asking Gehry to consider making them smaller.

Architect John Hart, who represents Maryland on the commission, said he didn't see enough of Eisenhower in the design so far.

"I'm not seeing the celebration of the man ... in the depiction of a rural landscape," he said.

Dan Feil, the executive architect who is managing the memorial design, stressed that more would be added to the design over time,

Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and commanded Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. He was president from 1953 to 1961, creating NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the interstate highway system.

The Republican president oversaw the Korean War and the nation's Cold War strategy _ and he warned the nation of the "unwarranted influence" of the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell speech before leaving the White House. Memorial organizers are looking to incorporate part of that speech into the design.


Eisenhower Memorial Commission:


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