Three design alternatives for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial will be presented this Thursday at a public meeting before the The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). One of the three concepts selected by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission will be chosen for the 400 block of Independence Avenue, SW, in a plan that could get final review as early as this year.
The Eisenhower Commission selected architect Frank Gehry early last year to design the memorial, and several subsequent rounds of revisions have honed the site plan into three designs, one that creates a circular pattern of smooth, non-supporting and seemingly unfinished columns surrounding the park and tribute (top rendering), a second that follows the colonnade and deference to L'Enfant but allows Maryland Avenue vehicular traffic to continue through the site (middle rendering), and a third that leaves the original concept of a road closure and block-filling park intact, along with the original concept of a screen - "tapestries of woven stainless steel mesh supported on the colonnade of limestone" (bottom rendering).
The $90-120 million project (Washingtonspeak for $180m) mandated by Congress for the 34th President is behind schedule on its projected 2015 opening, but whenever it wraps up, it will provide "a cohesive and contemplative space for learning about President Eisenhower and his vast accomplishments." Each version will have a central tree grove strategically placed to frame local vistas, underneath which visitors relax, sit and learn amid a new orthogonal grid of urban canopy.
The Eisenhower Commission, a 12 member, bipartisan group that includes senators, representatives, former presidential appointees, and Ike's grandson, has expressed its preference for the Scheme 3 that eliminates Maryland Avenue and breaks up the L'Enfant plan, creating a more cohesive tribute to the General and President. "It would be extraordinary if we can build this memorial designed by the foremost architect in America in today" said Daniel Feil, Executive Architect for the Eisenhower Commission. "This will be the 7th monument for a President [in DC] and the first in a century."
The presentation by NCPC is the first of three phases before the Commission, in this case to render design guidance on each of the three plans. The second of three required NCPC hearings will review the ultimate plan once it is selected, with a third hearing for final plan review; NCPC reviewed and approved site selection in 2006, and Gehry made an informational presentation before NCPC a year ago. NCPC Public Affairs Director Lisa McSpadden notes that the Commission "did give very specific design principals" to the National Park Service, incorporating 7 guidelines such as maintaining views of U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Commission on Fine Arts CFA reviewed and approved it on January 20th, the next step will entail a public review and comment period. Gehry and his team will be on hand at Thursday's meeting to hear out the Commission's presentation.
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