WASHINGTON The memorial honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower cleared another hurdle today as the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the concept of the redesign made by architect Frank Gehry.
“We’re moving to a final approval,” said Thomas Luebke, secretary of the fine arts commission.
Earlier this month, the modified plan for the memorial was approved, on a preliminary basis, by another approving body, the National Capital Planning Commission. Gehry removed two metal tapestries that critics said blocked views of the U.S. Capitol and left two free-standing pillars.
“Several commissioners felt the concept was substantially improved,” said Luebke. The voice vote was unanimous.
The back-to-back votes of confidence heartened the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which has been under fire for the last few years for the controversial design and its spending. It announced that groundbreaking for the memorial on the National Mall honoring the Kansan who was the Supreme Allied Commander of World War II and the nation’s 34th president would be in 2015.
Skeptics scoffed at the date but the memorial’s supporters were ecstatic.
Gehry said in a statement, “Capturing the life and legacy of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, has been a unique honor. I appreciate the approval given by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts today.”
Eisenhower Memorial Commission Chairman, Rocco Siciliano said, “Part of Gehry’s brilliance is his ability to respond to the many stakeholders in this process while still maintaining the power and integrity of his design. This is our second approval in just a few weeks. It’s good to see the work that has gone into preparing the design for approvals now yielding positive results and moving the project forward. ”
Neither Gehry nor Siciliano attended the meeting.
But Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, a fierce critic of the original and the revised designs, was there.
"The huge arrogant pillars do not befit President Eisenhower's modesty. They would make visitors feel like ants," he said afterwards.
As for any groundbreaking next year, Shubow said Congress had eliminated construction funding.
If the Eisenhower commission believes they can start building in 2015, he said, “they are in la-la land.”