WASHINGTON – President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family wants a memorial in the nation’s capital redesigned, saying the current plans overemphasize his humble Kansas roots and neglect his accomplishments in World War II and the White House.
Architect Frank Gehry has proposed a memorial park framed by large metal tapestries with images of Eisenhower’s boyhood home in Abilene, Kan. In the park, a statue of “Ike” as a boy would seem to marvel at what would become of his life, leading the Allied forces and becoming president. From the White House, he integrated schools and the military, and created NASA and interstate highways. Additional sculpture elements would depict Eisenhower as general and president.
Gehry’s idea echoed Eisenhower’s speech when he returned to Kansas after the war and spoke of a “barefoot boy” who achieved fame in Europe. He came home “to say the proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”
Anne Eisenhower, one of the president’s granddaughters, sent a formal objection to the National Capital Planning Commission on Tuesday on behalf of the family. Still, she noted Gehry is a talented architect.
“What one has to say is he’s missed the message here,” she told the Associated Press. “The mandate is to honor Eisenhower, and that is not being done in this current design. Or, shall we say, it is being done in such a small scale in relation to the memorial that it is dwarfed.”
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which hired Gehry, said they plan to seek final approval of the design in March and hope to break ground this year.