National Press Club

Opposition to Eisenhower Memorial design voiced at NPC Newsmaker

September 18, 2012 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver |

Two architects voiced their opposition to the design of the proposed memorial to former President Dwight Eisenhower at a National Press Club Newsmaker Sept. 18.

Milton W. Grenfell, principal of Grenfell Architecture and vice president of the National Civic Arts Society, and Robert K. Lewis, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland and architecture columnist for the Washington Post, said they object to the focus on Eisenhower’s youth in the memorial rather than his time as Allied Commander in World War II or a two-term president.

The idea by architect Frank Gehry that an entire four acres would be used for one memorial is wrong, Lewis said. He said prefers a “great urban park” with a memorial as one piece. Gehry thought he had to “create an urban room” which used all of the available space, Lewis said.

Grenfell said he believes the space would be better utilized as an area similar to Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. “I am not for this kind of elephantiasis of memorials we seem to have going on in this country,” he said.

The design should be decided by “ordinary people,” Grenfell said. “We want the people – in this case we were thinking Congress, our elected representatives, who we think would not be necessarily part of the art elite,” to help design the memorial, he said. “We think they will see their way clear to a kind of memorial that would be part of Washington, not some aberrant experiment.”

Grenfell's National Civic Arts Society held an alternate design competition for the Eisenhower Memorial. These designs could be used as a starting point in redesigning the memorial and wouldn't be too costly, he said.

“We had our counter-proposal completion for $3,000,'' Grenfell said. ``The notion that it is going to cost another $30 million to get to this point is nonsense.''