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NCPC ‘puzzled’ by Eisenhower Memorial design changes, approves project anyway

Further criticisms included that the new design is “confused, illegible, and weak”

This Thursday, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) reviewed three design modifications made to the planned Eisenhower Memorial, arrived at with the support of the Eisenhower family. Despite various criticisms, the NCPC voted in approval of the design changes.

The modifications include revisions to the tapestry image, the location of the sculpture of young Dwight Eisenhower, and the canopy tree plan.

Originally, the tapestry was a composite view of Abilene, Kansas, but it has since been altered to a “peacetime image” of a Normandy, France beach. The location of the young Eisenhower statue was moved to the center of the project, behind the 80-foot-high, 447-foot-long stainless steel tapestry. The final change was to remove four trees.

Responses by the NCPC ranged from being “perplexed” to “puzzled,” with criticisms both on the location of the young Eisenhower statue to the image depicted on the tapestry, itself.

On the tapestry, members of the NCPC said that they preferred the image of Kansas because it nodded towards Eisenhower’s tranquil roots. The NCPC further added that visitors may not be able to clearly distinguish the tapestry image as being from Normandy. The low horizon line of the image also reduces coherency.

When it came to the location of the young Eisenhower statue, with its back to the Department of Education building, the NCPC said that it seemed like the statue was turning its back on education. The location also assumes that the Department of Education building won’t eventually be redeveloped.

Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, gave a public testimony on the project that he said has been “radically changed.” Rather than be a visual narrative of a young Eisenhower looking towards the future of his accomplishments, Shubow said that the “confused, illegible, and weak” project now seems to lessen the emphasis on Eisenhower.

“Pay no attention to the boy behind the curtain,” said Shubow, who later described the tapestry change to a Normandy coastline as “banal and bland.”

Overall, Shubow said that the design changes have resulted in a “confused, incoherent proposal with an uninspired tapestry.”

In response to the criticisms, Craig Webb, partner of Gehry Partners, said that the new horizon line is expected to be more transparent rather than harsh. The low horizon line is also due to the intention to making the sky more visible, which, according to Webb, is the main focus.

The project is located on a four-acre site that the NCPC approved in September 2006. It is only one block away from the National Mall and four blocks away from the U.S. Capitol. Its boundaries include Independence Avenue SW to the north, 4th Street SW to the east, 6th Street SW to the west, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Headquarters to the south.

Before any groundbreaking can occur, the Eisenhower Memorial proposal will return to the NCPC for preliminary and final reviews. The dedication for the memorial is slated for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6, 2019.