Years of legislative battles over Frank Gehry, FAIA's design for a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower Washington, D.C., seem to have drawn to a close with an announcement today from Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, that the Eisenhower family will support Gehry's design going forward.
In a letter to Secretary James A. Baker, III, a member of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission's advisory committee, Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late former president, conceded approval of the proposal. "While some of us may have had other preferences in the past, all of us support your proposal," she wrote. "We recognize that your recommendation offers a compromise, one which all Americans who loved the general and the president can support."
Secretary Baker had brokered an agreement between the commission and President Eisenhower's descendants, whose objections to the design became the matter of record when the House Natural Resources Committee put forward an act that would allow family input to the design process in June 2013. Baker's compromise recommended approval of the project with modifications to the design that include a modern-day view of the now-peaceful site of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, in the memorial's proposed steel tapestries—which have been the subject of debates on durability—as well as additional focus on President Eisenhower's boyhood hometown of Abilene, Kansas.
With this major hurdle out of the way (the project had won National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approval more than a year ago), Senator Roberts remarked on the fact that the family's approval may make it possible for the project to be completed in time for a significant milestone: "The timing of this resolution could not have been better," Roberts said in his announcement. "It will help us reach our goal of dedicating the memorial on June 6, 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day."
With so many stakeholders invested in the project, some, such as the NCPC and the Commission of Fine Arts, will most likely call for review of the modified designs. Additionally, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission's Commemorative Works Act (CWA) states that an entity must have all of its funding in place before building starts; the Eisenhower Memorial Commission currently has enough money to begin site work as a first phase of construction, but would need to apply for an exemption from the CWA to meet the dedication goal set in less than three years' time. Nevertheless, today's announcement means that President Eisenhower's memorial design can proceed without his family's opposition impeding its progress.
This post has been updated. The House Natural Resources Committee proposal, H.R. 1126 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act) was introduced in Congress in 2013, but was not enacted.