Fifty-eight retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a letter opposing architect Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
They charge that Gehry’s vision for the project is too divisive for further consideration. “Instead of the normal, fair and open competition of designs, the appointed commission delivered a design that, after many years and much public money spent, still does not have public or Congressional support,” the letter was sent to the House Committee on Appropriations. “As flag officers who have been honored to serve our country in war and peace, just as Eisenhower was, we call on our elected political leaders to honor him properly by mandating a new, fair, and public competition to design his memorial.”
Congress declined to fund the memorial as proposed in 2015. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, of Eisenhower’s home state, has led a lonely crusade to fund the project.
“The design has gone through several years of approval and quite a bit of refinement,” Roberts said on his election as chair of the Eisenhower Memorial Committee last year. “General Eisenhower told the troops before they stormed the beaches of Normandy, ‘Your task will not be easy,’ but he also said, ‘We will accept nothing less than full victory.'”
Critics charge the blueprint is as much a monument to Gehry as to Eisenhower. His preferred architectural style is deconstructive and deemphasizes function; motifs squarely at odds with the neoclassical company of the Jefferson Memorial or the Greek Doric manner of Mr. Lincoln. Gehry’s proposed schematic sprawls over four acres near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where one “encounters” and “experiences” Eisenhower by way of a statue of Ike as a boy, flanked by towering friezes depicting his assorted heroics, and amber waves of Kansas grain.
The Eisenhower family has also expressed its displeasure with Gehry’s vision, petitioning the Eisenhower Memorial Commission for an indefinite delay pending further discussions about “significantly changing the concept, scale, and scope of the memorial.” Ike’s son, John S.D. Eisenhower, urges the memorial should be, “as simple as possible and encapsulate, as much as can be done in stone, the accomplishments and principles,” of the 34th president.
Though Gehry has not publicly responded to the family’s criticism, he is famously intemperate with his critics, charging that “98 percent of everything that is built is pure shit.”
“Perhaps it is the license of genius to talk like a lout,” Washington Post columnist George Will wrote.
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