WASHINGTON — The design for a memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, more than 10 years in the planning, has so divided supporters and critics that the commission created to build it gave up trying to find a compromise and defiantly voted Wednesday to proceed, despite the bitter opposition of the Eisenhower family.
The unanimous vote by the congressionally created commission was especially remarkable given the momentum behind a congressional effort to undo the controversial design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
In what was a sometimes awkward session in a Capitol Hill hearing room Wednesday, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission discussed the objections by the family after Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a commissioner, read a letter from granddaughters Susan and Anne Eisenhower that said flatly, "The family could not support the current Gehry design" and would not engage in fundraising for the memorial.
The tug-of-war between the Eisenhowers and the commission centers on the approach taken by Gehry for the memorial.
As envisioned by Gehry, the proposed memorial is defined on three sides by large screens held by 80-foot pillars. They would be decorated with large trees made out of mesh metal.
There would be two large blocks, each with bas-reliefs. One would depict Eisenhower as president; the other would be an image representing the Normandy invasion. In the middle would be a statue of a teenage Eisenhower.
"This does not pass the memorialization test," said Susan Eisenhower in an interview.