How much does Washington like Ike?
The National Capital Planning Commission today will be shown three design alternatives for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, slated to be built in the 400 block of Independence Avenue S.W., just south of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission selected hot architect Frank Gehry, known for his use of curves and formless designs, to create a design. After several rounds of revisions, three options have emerged. One offers a circle of columns and “a series of oversized tree planters arranged in a grid pattern”; a second has a colonnade and an “orthogonal grid of trees”; the third would bring “tapestries of woven stainless steel mesh.”
Each of the three would be huge, and that third design, which seems to be the frontrunner, would break up Maryland Avenue. It will cost at least $90 million and is scheduled to open in 2015. It’s already behind schedule, which would surely pain the master of logistics and planning it is meant to honor.
The commission hopes to craft “a cohesive and contemplative space for learning about President Eisenhower and his vast accomplishments,” and certainly Eisenhower deserves recognition. As a general, he led the way in saving the world from an indisputable evil. And while historians debate the merits of his presidency, he was the last chief executive to fully respect the balance of power between the White House and Congress, and he presided over a growing economy.
But is another big memorial the right recognition? As the commission’s chief architect Daniel Feil notes, Ike’s would be the seventh presidential monument in D.C. A memorial to both John and John Quincy Adams is also planned.
When Washington was debating whether to build the massive World War II Memorial, columnist George Will said anyone wanting to honor the veterans of that conflict should stand on the Mall and look toward the White House, then the Capitol, and take note of the fact that they are still there.
“People should stand on the Mall and look around to see the great institutions that won the war,” Will said. “And that should be enough.”
It should be enough for those wanting to honor Eisenhower as well.