While a meeting of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission earlier this month appeared to indicate that the group had reached consensus around the design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, some members of Congress have indicated that they still oppose the memorial’s design—and hope to stop it from moving forward.
In an email obtained by ARCHITECT magazine, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., told a constituent that he is “not pleased with the design” by Frank Gehry, FAIA, for the Eisenhower Memorial, “nor the demand to crowd the National Mall and every adjacent public space with memorials all dedicated to events and individuals of the last century.”
Members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission largely consented to changes to the design, which two Gehry Partners representatives introduced at the May meeting. Members of the Eisenhower family were not in attendance.
“I have also met with members of the Eisenhower family and share their objections to the current design,” Rep. Moran’s May 29 email reads. “While the Eisenhower memorial is very far along in the process, I have approached several of my colleagues who serve on the commission and encouraged them to rethink their support and allow a new public competition on an alternative design.”
In the email about the Eisenhower Memorial design, Rep. Moran appeared to suggest to the email's recipient that some memorials should not be on the National Mall or be built there in the future. "To your list of memorials, I could add a few more," he wrote.
Rep. Moran is the ranking member on the House Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees funding for the National Park Service. His office released a statement confirming that Rep. Moran has asked members of the commission to rethink their support for the Eisenhower Memorial design.
Asked whether Rep. Moran believes there should be any Eisenhower Memorial, a spokesperson for the congressman said, "Moran urges preservation of the National Mall for future generations and has called for restraint on the scope and scale of future monuments and museums."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has also urged that the commission delay a decision on the design. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—who asked Eisenhower Memorial Commission chairman Rocco Siciliano for documentation on Gehry’s design in late February—has said that it would be inappropriate to move forward on the design until he receives documentation regarding the selection process.
Chris Cimko, a spokesperson for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, says that Rep. Issa is waiting on documents from the General Services Administration, whose Design Excellence program template was used to select a designer for the memorial. She says that the commission remains confident that it will move forward with the current design, particularly after Gehry's changes met with approval in May. The National Capital Planning Commission could take up the design at a meeting on July 12.
“We’re working on a timetable,” Cimko says. “We’re trying to be responsible stewards of taxpayers’ money. Every delay costs the taxpayer money.”
Another House Republican expressed antipathy to the Gehry design, during a hearing today regarding the National Mall.
Representatives from the Eisenhower Memorial Commission were not invited to testify this morning before the House Natural Resources National Parks, Forests, and Publics Lands subcommittee, which held a hearing titled “the Future of the National Mall.” At the hearing, National Capital Planning Commission chairman Preston Bryant, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts secretary Tom Luebke, and others spoke about the past and future of the National Mall.
Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, the small nonprofit that has led the opposition to Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial, was invited by the subcommittee to testify on the design. In a memorable exchange, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the chairman of the subcommittee, asked Shubow whether the Commemorative Works Act should be amended to require that all monuments and memorials be made in the Classical style.
The Commemorative Works Act is one of the fundamental pieces of legislation defining the National Mall. And according to Shubow, it already requires that all design on the National Mall be Classical. The language of the bill calls on Congress “to preserve the integrity of the comprehensive design of the L’Enfant and McMillan plans for the Nation’s Capital.” Those plans were Classical in nature.
In another exchange, Shubow and a House representative debated the role of complexity in public memorialization.
“This debate is endless,” said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., surrendering his time. “I yield back.”