On Thursday came news that the bipartisan commission in charge of creating a new memorial to Dwight David Eisenhower had selected their preferred alternative (among three options) for a basic plan. Last year, the commission chose Frank Gehry as architect, a surprise, given that Gehry’s flamboyant architectural personality seems so at odds with Eisenhower’s very staid reputation. But I welcomed that choice as a potential chance to break through the static and repetitive language of memorialization that afflicts so much of Washington (see the Navy Memorial, or the Japanese American Memorial, two recent examples of a vitiated tradition). Thursday was the first chance to see what Gehry is thinking. It’s a surprise–giant columns lend it a traditional, even authoritarian air, while a huge woven metal scrim or tapestry, will radically rethink how Washington deals with the Big Ugly, the government architecture south of the Mall. I tried not to plant the flag one way or the other on the design quite yet. But I analyzed its potential meanings, and how I think the conversation will develop.
Image by Gehry Partner, Llp