Rep. Jim Moran joins Eisenhower family’s effort to halt memorial design

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran joined the growing chorus of opposition to the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial on Tuesday, just ahead of Friday’s scheduled hearing on the monument’s controversial design.

“I have also met with members of the Eisenhower family and share their objections to the current design,” Moran wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller. “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.”

The memorial design has also drawn harsh words from the Eisenhower family, despite recent revisions architect Frank Gehry made following public criticism. In a May 30 statement, the family of the former president and World War II commanding general continued its earlier opposition to giant screens Gehry plans to build:

The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive. Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs. This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial’s “backdrop,” is impractical and unnecessary for the conceptual narrative. For those reasons, we do not support a design that utilizes them.

Eisenhower Memorial

The proposed tapestries are clearly visible in this model of the Eisenhower Memorial park looking west along Independence Avenue. Image: Eisenhower Memorial Commssion and Gehry Partners, LLP, September 2011

Gehry has indicated that the tapestries are critical to his design, and the Washington Post reports that “simply removing them would likely mean the wholesale scuttling of Gehry’s design.”

Opposition to the memorial has been spearheaded by the National Civic Art Society (NCAS) — a non-profit devoted to upholding and promoting Western ideals of classical beauty in art and architecture. NCAS has criticized the “secretive, elitist, and undemocratic” memorial design competition, pointing out that the competition considered 44 entries whereas the National World War II Memorial considered 407.

NCAS has also criticized the Eisenhower Memorial’s proposed design, which the society called an “impious, soulless design … [that] suggests nothing noble or heroic” and “represents a fundamental cleavage with the tradition of national presidential memorials.”

“This should not be a hard call for members of Congress,” NCAS Chairman Justin Shubow told TheDC “All they need to do is take a look at the ugly, grandiose design to realize it is totally inappropriate for President Eisenhower.”

Rep. Moran’s public opposition follows similar criticism by Reps. Dan Lungren, Aaron Schock and Frank Wolf. In late February, House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa demanded documents detailing the commission’s design-selection process. And The Washington Post reported Thursday that Issa had also written to ask the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to delay moving forward, since his committee had not yet received the documents he requested.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the subcommittee holding Friday’s hearing, indicated his opposition to the re-design.

“I remain concerned that taxpayer dollars will be used to fund construction of a memorial to President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower despite the fact that his family has expressed concern and opposition to major design components,” he wrote, “And until a consensus can be reached, I support the family’s request to hold off on moving forward with the project.”

“It is telling that the only congressional support the design is receiving is from the commissioners themselves,” Shubow told TheDC. “This is nothing like prior memorial controversies in which members were lined up on both sides of the issue.”

“As more and more members of Congress come out against the experimental avant-garde design,” Shubow continued, “the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has all the more reason not to ram this project through.”

Map of the Eisenhower Memorial's proposed location.

The monument is set to be built in a prominent location on the National Mall. Image: Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

In a statement released Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that “it’s important that we build a national memorial that reflects the vision of the Commission, his family, and the American people. Though it is important to move forward as swiftly as possible, our priority must be in getting it right. If more time is required to get it right, so be it.”

Salazar is a major player in the future of the Eisenhower Memorial, as his department presides over the National Park Service, which controls the public land the installation will sit.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission predicts that the monument will cost between $90 and $110 million.

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