DC is the memorial city. The name’s not inscribed on our coins or written anywhere of importance, but ask almost anyone; it’s common knowledge. Our lawns are overcome with odes to fallen soldiers, nods to great generals, and lasting pieces of art depicting heroes of times gone past. If you’ve been on the DC scene for a while, you might even take a stroll past the Lincoln Memorial or the Vietnam Wall for granted. But, if you take the time peer up into the eyes of America’s roots or run your hands along the Wall and take in the atrocities of where we have been and what we have lost, we might come to the agreement that the statue-esque aspects of this city are in the end, quite inspiring. And DC’s memorial game is far from over. In fact, some might say our city is just getting started.
One of the most prominent new memorials that is (eventually) coming to fruition in the District is the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial, honoring the former president and World War II general in an expansive four-acre site on Independence Avenue, not far from Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Like almost any development that ensues in the public eye, this one hasn’t come without much debate.
If you’re questioning just how much debate can hold up a memorial, the answer is more than you might think. This is actually a perfect example of how behind schedule things can get when objections are made, then made again (and again) to the design. The memorial was actually approved back in 1999, with sufficient funds allocated for the planning. Fast forward to almost 2018, and we’re just about to break ground. Talk about a project manager’s nightmare.
The artist behind the monument is Frank Gehry. Originally from Canada, Gehry is an American architect who has spent his most recent life and career in Los Angeles. He has designed many modern spectacles of the architecture world such as the MARTa Heford museum in Germany, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, the New World Center in Miami Beach, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., and many more on an impressive and growing list.
The memorial’s design, as described on esteemed architecture news site, Arch Daily, “is conceived as a park-like setting featuring a 25-meter-tall column supporting a series of woven metal tapestries depicting scenes from Eisenhower’s hometown of Abilene, Kansas. Stacked stone blocks will also display sculptures and reliefs of key moments from Eisenhower’s legacy.”
Over the years, as the design has been perfected, the majority of the controversy has come at the hand of the Eisenhower family’s differing thoughts on what should be featured in the park. The family was keen on having Eisenhower’s home state of Kansas represented, as well as some sort of representation of Normandy beaches in peacetime, acknowledging the D-Day invasion that Eisenhower oversaw while he was in office during World War II.
With design ideas and disagreements with living family members at the forefront of this 17-year frustrating attempt at a memorial, it’s not without a little luck that they still have the necessary $150 million secured to break ground and see the project through to the finish line. The groundbreaking has already taken place, with multiple Eisenhower family members present. Now that formalities are out of the way, the real construction can begin…and is expected to last three years, with hopes to dedicate the memorial on the 75th Anniversary of V-E Day in May of 2020.
Despite the long and bumpy road, and just recently passing “go,” Gehry’s artistic spirit is still excited about bringing the project to life. As quoted in the New York Times, he recently reiterated:
“This project has been an enormous honor for me both professionally and personally. He (Eisenhower) led the country with strength , but also with great humanity and humility. I hope that these values are captured in the memorial.”