Witold Rybczynski is a member of the United States Commission of Fine Arts and the author, most recently, of “The Biography of a Building.”
ON Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on Frank Gehry’s controversial design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial. National memorials are managed by the National Park Service, which is why the Congressional subcommittee involved itself, even though reviewing architectural design, as Representative Raúl M. Grijalva observed, involves “something well outside our purview.”
What has fueled the Eisenhower memorial controversy in the media are the public pronouncements of two of the president’s granddaughters, Susan and Anne Eisenhower, who have proclaimed themselves dissatisfied with the design. Understandably, their position is being taken seriously. Yet I am concerned that the growing public brouhaha will ultimately weaken the memorial design.
The Eisenhower memorial is to be located on a parcel of land just south of the National Mall, between the National Air and Space Museum and the Department of Education building. It covers four acres, slightly more than the area of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The proposed memorial would not sprawl over the entire site, as some critics have maintained. What Mr. Gehry has done is to place the memorial to the 34th president in what is effectively a new public park....