WASHINGTON — President Dwight Eisenhower’s family welcomed design changes by architect Frank Gehry for a memorial honoring the World War II general, but said Wednesday that any monument should be “simple, sustainable and affordable” to honor his values.
In a joint statement from Eisenhower’s son and grandchildren, the family offered its first reaction to changes in the national memorial design that Gehry announced May 15.
The family continues to oppose the use of large metal scrims to frame a memorial park near the National Mall. Gehry has called them tapestries that would depict the landscape of Eisenhower’s boyhood home in Kansas.
The scope and scale of the images woven in metal remain “controversial and divisive,” the family said.
In Gehry’s design changes, images of Eisenhower carved in stone would be replaced with 9-foot-tall statues depicting Ike as World War II hero and president.
There also is a life-size sculpture of a young Eisenhower looking out at what his life would become.
“From our perspective, many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed,” the family said, but added that more time is needed to break an impasse over the metal scrims.
“Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions,” the family said. “This one-of-a-kind experimental technology, which serves as the memorial’s backdrop, is impractical and unnecessary.”
A spokeswoman for the presidentially appointed Eisenhower Memorial Commission said Wednesday the panel is happy that the family is supportive of the new design.
“In defining what their problem is with the tapestries, they seem to be talking more about the environment and sustainability,” said Chris Cimko. Those concerns are “shared concerns” and subject to rigorous testing by independent laboratories, Cimko said.
Earlier in May, Gehry seemed determined to protect that feature as part of the overall concept. Designers from his firm were photographing Kansas landscapes to develop the final images. His firm is also testing materials against corrosive conditions.
“Eisenhower was so proud to grow up in Kansas; leaving out this imagery would mean omitting an important part of his story,” Gehry wrote to the commission, which includes lawmakers from Kansas and elsewhere.
Members of the commission at a meeting May 15 all voiced approval of Gehry’s design, but put off a formal vote.