Frank Gehry Reflects on Designing the New Eisenhower Memorial

The memorial opens on September 17.

Eisenhower Memorial
The Dwight D. Eishenhower Memorial.
Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

This month, the array of memorials in Washington, DC is set to get a little larger. That’s when the Frank Gehry-designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial opens to the public. It’s set to make its debut on the 17th of September, following a long design process in which the memorial became something of a political issue.

Trying to find a succinct way to translate Eisenhower’s life into a single structure was never going to be an easy task. But now, the contentious debate over the memorial has ended; it is built and will be open to the public soon.

A new article at The Guardian by Rowan Moore explores both Gehry’s own reflections on the project and the impact it’s had on federal buildings in recent years — US Commission for Fine Arts member Justin Shubow, a Donald Trump appointee, is one of several figures to critique it as of late. And it’s notable that the current administration has inveighed against more contemporary styles of architecture.

Gehry spoke with Moore about his admiration for Eisenhower. “I came away blindsided. It brings tears to my eyes,” he said about his research into the former president’s life. “How his accomplishments as a general and as a president match anything, all without the fanfare that’s going on around the president now.”

Gehry also describes the way that the project evolved after the initial criticism it received earlier in the decade — and the challenges of balancing Eisenhower’s humble roots with his status as a head of state and a general who helped to win World War II.

Moore also offers an optimistic view of the memorial itself. “It appears to combine dignity with intimacy, and the conventions of figurative sculpture with the digital technology that makes the screen possible,” Moore writes. And in a few weeks, the public will be able to see for themselves.

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