Mudslinging Up Ahead: Critics Hosting Forum About Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial Design
September 13, 2012
Debates in Washington D.C. are nothing new, but heated forums and mudslinging over an architectural monument is a whole other story. Next Tuesday, the National Civic Art Society will hold its next forum to discuss Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial. This newest forum is the latest in a series of protestations over the past 6 months which has seen the group file complaint after complaint about the contemporary nature of Gehry’s plan. In a ‘Classicism vs. Modernism’ debate for the ages, the Eisenhower Memorial pits the National Civic Art Society and the late President’s family against one of the world’s most renowned architects. Read More.
Gehry’s latest design has already incorporated a number of changes requested by the Eisenhower family. Bas reliefs have been upgraded to statues and a monument of the President as a child has been changed to a more adult figure. Once the changes were made, the family was reportedly still unhappy. A metal scrim that floats along one wall proved problematic as it appeared to be the largest, most expensive, and seemingly fragile piece of the memorial.
Enter the National Civic Art Society– the conservative group held a forum back in May that was unkind to the Gehry plan, not uncharacteristic for a group that considers Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial a failure, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, inappropriatebecause the effigy appears to be “sneering.” The group ultimately found that Gehry’s design “shows unease with his subject’s greatness.”
The divide can be seen as a larger, ongoing issue of whether memorials should embrace modern architecture or adhere to the neo-classical aesthetic of Washington’s great monuments. Can respect and honor be fully conveyed through contemporary forms of expression? (Our response: Duh.) Many in opposition to the National Civic Art Society say their lack of confidence in modern memorials reflects a lack of confidence in America. We will have to see who prevails next Tuesday.