Gehry’s design takes form

I report in the Post today on modifications (and I think clearly improvements) to the memorial to Dwight David Eisenhower being designed by Frank Gehry. The architect, and his collaborator the theater artist Robert Wilson, spoke together at a National Archives public panel on Wednesday. And then Gehry appeared at a National Capitol Planning Commission informational hearing on Thursday, where he had to deal with what must have been some very frustrating questions about the size of the stone pillars and the scale of the monument. Frustrating for two reasons: Because the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has essentially said they like the scale of the updated designs, and frustrating because you can’t really shrink this thing beyond a certain point without it losing its monumentality. The columns, Gehry said, are a bit smaller than previously designed, but can’t get any narrower without compromising the structural role they play holding the giant metal tapestries.

I think many people were convinced, however, by the tapestry prototypes he brought to Washington in September, and again for the NCPC hearing this week. The design that seems to be winning hearts and minds is based on an innovative technique inspired by the shading and lights and darks of Albrecht Durer’s etchings and woodcuts. And you can see that in the results. Having seen the tapestries, I am more and more in like with this memorial, which will be strange and very unlike anything else in Washington. The odds that it could be breathtakingly beautiful (especially at night) are much better than I thought they’d be when I first saw the original designs a year and a half ago.

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