Eisenhower Memorial, Delayed by Design Disputes, Opens This Week

Eisenhower Memorial, Delayed by Design Disputes, Opens This Week

The fight became so intense that Mr. Gehry hired a powerhouse Washington lawyer and Congress withheld funding for several years. The New Yorker declared the proposed memorial an act of true bipartisanship because “almost everyone hates it.”

Eventually, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III brokered a compromise that won approval from the family. The new design refashioned the one remaining tapestry with a Gehry illustration of Pointe du Hoc at Normandy instead of Kansas and put the youthful Ike, now in shoes, off to the side.

“In hindsight, it shouldn’t be surprising that the effort to settle on a memorial design aroused discussion and controversy,” David Eisenhower, the president’s grandson, said by email. “There were differing opinions as to what an Eisenhower memorial should ‘say,’ and many differing opinions as to design.” After the revisions, he said, he was satisfied with the final outcome “and now believe that Gehry was the right choice all along.”

The changes did not assuage every critic. Justin Shubow, the president of the National Civic Art Society who has waged a long-running fight against Mr. Gehry’s vision, said the final version was an artistic mess, combining different styles without reconciling them.

“The memorial is an uninspiring, gargantuan failure,” he said. “Its dominant feature, the so-called tapestry, is an inscrutable, illegible sketch of the sort Frank Gehry is well-known for. It should be called ‘Frankie Doodle.’” At the same time, he said, the statues themselves were wooden and kitsch. “The memorial as a whole is Deconstructivist in that it is a mishmash of motley pieces without unity or coherence. Eisenhower, who detested modern art, would have hated it.”

Mr. Gehry could not be reached for comment over the weekend, and his name is conspicuously absent from the memorial’s engraving. A spokeswoman for the memorial commission said Mr. Gehry’s firm generally did not list his name on projects; as a compromise, he is named on a plaque at the adjacent bookstore.

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