Education Secretary Betsy DeVos endorsed the proposed design of the widely panned design for the Eisenhower Memorial, saying the expansive monument “looks to be a gorgeous memorial.”
DeVos prepared a video message in support of the memorial for a meeting of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (USCFA) where architect Frank Gehry’s latest design received unanimous approval.
USCFA hung a small sample of the massive tapestry that will be the focal point of the four-acre memorial park Wednesday, providing a preview of the final product. The two small panels hung from a crane approximately where the final tapestry will sit in front of the Lyndon Baines Johnson building, headquarters of the Department of Education, where DeVos has her office.
“Many of us will only have to look out our windows to gain inspiration from what looks to be a gorgeous memorial,” DeVos said in her video message to the commission.
“President Dwight D. Eisenhower is and will continue to be a towering figure in the American public conscience. His brilliant and courageous D-day plan to take the beaches of Normand, led to the liberation of millions across western Europe.”
The newest design for the plan features a 447 foot wide, 80 foot tall tapestry of steel chord and wire mesh which depicts the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, in famous style of Gehry’s loose, doodle-like sketches.
“Eisenhower liberated people from Nazism abroad, and liberated people from racism at home,” DeVos said. “His strength and character is a model for us all. That is why we are delighted to welcome the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Memorial to our neighborhood.”
Opponents to the memorial claim it “seems more of a monument to its designer Frank Gerhy than to Dwight D. Eisenhower,” as Marion Smith, chairman of the National Civic Art Society, said at the unveiling of the mock-up Wednesday.
“There should be a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, but it should reflect his moral and philosophical and aesthetic perspective. This design currently, as it stands, does not,” Smith said.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has encountered obstacles to Gehry’s design for more than a decade as various groups including the Eisenhower family opposed the various iterations of the design elements, particularly the massive tapestry. The original tapestry design depicted a landscape around Eisenhower’s childhood home of Abilene, Kan. The design was changed to show the beaches of Normandy, France in 2015.
Both photorealistic ideas were scrapped, and the Eisenhower Commission settled on the “doodle-like sketch” of Pointe du Hoc this year.
The Eisenhower memorial finally received $45 million funding in May, after years of being blocked in the appropriations process, but that’s far from the $150 million total estimated cost of the memorial. The new design still needs approval from the National Capital Planning Commission, which will consider the proposal at its Oct. 5 meeting, and a sign-off from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke before the project can go forward.
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