A new bill put forward in the House of Representatives would reverse the course of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial by scrapping the existing design by Frank Gehry, FAIA, and eliminating federal funding for the project.
On Wednesday, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, a bill that would amend the 2000 Department of Defense Appropriations Act that provides the statutory authority for the Eisenhower Memorial. The purpose of the new legislation is to "facilitate the completion of an appropriate national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower." It would do so, specifically, by mandating an alternative to Gehry's memorial design.
Other provisions of the bill would limit the terms for Eisenhower Memorial commissioners to 4 years and extend the expiration for the legislative authority for the memorial. By cutting federal funding for the memorial, which will occupy a four-acre public park just off the National Mall, Rep. Bishop says that his bill will save $100 million in future funding for the commission.
"I am saddened by Congressman Bishop’s attempt to thwart the memorialization of one of America's greatest Generals and Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower," says Eisenhower Memorial Commission chair Rocco Siciliano, in an email.
Rep. Bishop's bill follows a continuing resolution budget bill from the House that also cut spending on the memorial by reducing construction spending through September on the Eisenhower Memorial to $0. The Senate language for the continuing resolution does the same. (Both versions of the bill retain salaries for Eisenhower Memorial Commission members; Congress has not yet passed a continuing resolution.)
Gehry's design for the Eisenhower Memorial has won general praise from the design community. But it has garnered the opposition of some in Congress and several members of the Eisenhower family.
Congressional opposition to Gehry's design for the memorial began to galvanize last year. In March 2012, Rep. Bishop held a House subcommittee hearing on the memorial in which he questioned aspects of the design. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) also brought the matter up before the powerful House Oversight committee. In June, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) told a supporter (and confirmed with ARCHITECT) that he did not support the Gehry design for the Eisenhower Memorial or even support its placement on the National Mall.
In response to his critics, Gehry unveiled a number of changes to the design in May of last year. The next month, in June, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar personally intervened, pledging to find consensus for Gehry's design. The Gehry design for the Eisenhower Memorial has won its share of admirers: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who represents President Eisenhower's home state, supports the design. But Daniel Inouye, the Democratic senator from Hawaii who served as vice chairman of the commission and co-authored the legislation establishing a national Eisenhower Memorial, died in December. The bill's other co-author, Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Alaska, died in 2010.
"Our commissioners, representing both parties across this great nation, have selected a prominent site and an appropriate, meaningful design by the world’s most celebrated living architect, Frank Gehry," Siciliano says. "I believe the nation and the memory of President Eisenhower have been well served by all the Commissioners of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. This bill by Congressman Bishop insults their efforts and the great legacy of Eisenhower, in whose administration I served."
"Congress has long had concerns about the memorial's time, process, and expense, and now members can see that this design can no longer go forward," says Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, the nonprofit organization that has led the public opposition to Gehry's design. "It's time for a new competition, one that's democratic, open, transparent, and fair. We believe that this new beginning will allow the completion of a new design, one that is both faster to complete and more cost effective."
The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, which Rep. Bishop chairs, will hold a hearing on the Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act on Tuesday, March 19, to discuss the bill.