Legendary architect Frank Gehry has announced subtle changes to his concept for a memorial to the 34th President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, exchanging stark images of the D-Day landings woven into immense panels of metal meshing for softer pictorials of foliage and grain silos, reminiscent of the esteemed figure’s Kansas home in Abilene.
Gehry clarifies: “I’ve read everything I could find about him, and he kept referring to Abilene. He talks about the barefoot boy who went on this odyssey.” The new concepts show that two portions of stainless steel mesh forming an enclosure around the memorial plaza have been removed, opening the space to the passing public and creating a more welcoming, if more exposed volume.
The site for the Eisenhower Memorial was selected in 2005 under the consultation of major architecture film Gensler, and is located a block from the National Mall in Washington DC entitled Eisenhower Square. This location was selected due to its proximity to key institutions the Department of Education, the National Air and Space Museum, Voice of America studios and the Federal Aviation Administration, all of which are connected to President Eisenhower in some way.
A series of mesh tapestries will be supported by a colonnade of limestone 80ft tall, echoing existing memorials to Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson, and a series of sycamore trees native to President Eisenhower’s home in Abilene will branch across the open plaza in place of the oak trees originally planned for the space. Concerns have been raised that the wide panels of metal will reduce the amount of natural light reaching the Department of Education which neighbours the memorial site, however Gehry has reinforced that the transparency of this material will allow the sun’s rays to penetrate the mesh tapestry.
These concepts are still subject to alteration and will face a federal panel in the next few months. Full federal funding has been given for the design period of this $90-$110m project however public/private funding will be sought during the construction phase.