Consensus: The Design For Ike's Memorial Has Got to Go

Congress is rightfully putting the breaks on the planned memorial for former President Eisenhower.

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Architect Frank Gehry's model of the Eisenhower Memorial is viewed on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, before a meeting of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Designers from architect Frank Gehry's firm unveiled some changes to a planned memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington after hearing complaints from members of Eisenhower's family.

As expected, Congress is moving to put the breaks on a planned memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower—not just because it may be over-budget and more than $60 million, according to published reports, may be unaccounted for, but because it's ugly and inappropriate for its stated purpose.

"We are very respectful that this is a memorial for the American people," Eisenhower's grand-daughter Susan told a congressional committee Tuesday. "I think we might be in a different position if the public hadn't been so very strongly against this design."

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She was talking about a plan conceived by architect Frank Gehry that most people feel is too radical, too overdone, and too avant-garde to honor a man who was known for his humility and whose very presidency came to represent a quiet period of American power and normalcy.

Gehry—who is perhaps best known for designing public buildings that make elaborate use of curved shaped and other innovations that make them look like they are melting in the hot sun—has proposed a monument to the nation's 34th president that features a statue of Eisenhower as a small boy in Kansas surrounded by 80-foot tall stainless steel screens. His concept for the memorial is so unpopular that U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, has offered legislation that would force the federally-chartered commission overseeing the project to officially scrap the design.

"I want to see the president that was the president when I was born, depicted in a way that the American people remember him," Wyoming GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis said at Tuesday's hearing, according to The Washington Examiner. "He was not a grand, sweeping, ostentatious individual," she said, in a not-so-back-handed slap at the Gehry design.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

The Eisenhower family, as evidenced by Susan Eisenhower's testimony Tuesday, is not a fan of what Gehry has come up with. It is, as I have written before, oversized, overwhelming, and overdone, especially given the proximity of its planned four-acre site to the United States Capitol. Moreover—and this would surely make the man himself blanch at the thought—at $14 million the projected cost exceeds what was spent on the memorials to FDR, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or the Washington Monument, most of which will be borne by the U.S. taxpayer.

Congress is on the right track. The current design should be scrapped, and Mr. Gehry should be given his walking papers. A full accounting of the moneys spent thus far by the memorial commission should be made public. And the whole process should begin over again, bearing in mind that the objective is to come up with a design for a memorial that suitably honors the memory of the man, the solider, and the statesman it purports to commemorate and not the alleged creativity of the architect behind it.

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