This morning, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved the revised concept design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. Design firm Gehry Partners presented the design for final review, but the commission members denied final approval amid some concerns about the the tapestry image's clarity on the steel material, the new location for the young Eisenhower statue, and the removal of four trees from the park.
The tapestry's previously approved image, an agricultural landscape of Kansas, did not gain the support of Eisenhower's grandchildren. Susan Eisenhower and her siblings believe the new proposed image—a contemporary aerial view of a beach in Normandy, France, where Eisenhower helped carried out the Allied invasion on D-Day—speaks to Eisenhower's life legacy of peace more than a landscape of Kansas' countryside does.
Craig Webb, a partner at Gehry Partners, said that the landscape of the park and the statue of young Eisenhower will represent the former president's humble beginnings with a backdrop of postwar Normandy symbolizing Eisenhower's peacetime efforts. In opposition, Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society and author of a 2012 report critiquing the memorial, said that the revised design is banal and bland. "Lacking any symbolism or beauty, it’s a work of geography, not of art," he said at the meeting."I’ve seen more striking landscape photos on my friends’ Facebook pages." Shubow and his organization didn't support the original design either, but he said the original is superior.
Susan Eisenhower quickly responded to Shubow: "Normandy symbolizes not only the place that spearheaded the liberation of Europe, but also the place symbolizes the Europe we have today. This is the man who is the architect of that." She additionally remarked that the new image represents what Eisenhower's legacy was really about, and she stressed that the entirety of the park represents his entire life instead of significant events during his presidency.
Accepting the firm's visualization of the revised design, the commission members voted in a motion that mock-ups need to be created to understand fully how the landscape of the Normandy beach will appear on a partly transparent tapestry. The commission members agreed the previous design was coherent and well-organized, but they approved the new theme of the memorial with the condition that the a full-size mock-up of the new image will be fabricated and reviewed again in another CFA meeting. In addition, the commission members requested more detail from Gehry Partners about the reason for relocating the young Eisenhower statue and removing four trees in the park. The National Capital Planning Commission will review the project on Feb. 2.