The National Civic Art Society www.civicart.org. and the Institute for Classical Architecture, Mid-Atlantic Chapter www.classicist-washington.org invited architects and artists to participate in a competition to design a counterproposal to Frank Gehry’s design of the national, President Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. The competition was open to US citizens and encouraged submissions that embodied the traditions of civic art in Washington, DC; that were harmonious with the L’Enfant and McMillan Commission Plans; and that were meaningful, timeless, and appropriate to the memory of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The jury for the competition was composed of members from the architectural, artistic, and civic communities who are dedicated to the restoration of the classical vision of Washington DC. Jurors included Joseph Bottum, Bruce Cole, Ron Fleming, Charles Lancaster, Ambassador J. William Middendorf III, and Michael Curtis (nonvoting, jury foreman and NCAS board member.)
The jury’s technical parameters were: Character in Design; Size, Scale, and Proportion; Fitness of Subject. The renderings were judged for clarity of thought, not for style or technical virtuosity. The technical requirements were that the memorial be recognizable as a memorial in the classical idiom; that it embodied the traditions of civic art in Washington DC; that it stand in harmony with the vision of the L’Enfant and the McMillan Commission plans; and that it be appropriate to the dignity of the subject and suitable to the Founder’s vision of Washington DC.
My opinions of the various entries are offered, below.
This heroic scale memorial is true, direct, and honest: The bold use of Stripped Classicism is true to the popular style of the period and too Eisenhower’s unfussy, aesthetic sensibility, in fact this memorial exhibits the taut masculinity of the general’s “Eisenhower Jacket” design; the memorial directly confronts the space with its commanding presence, introducing nobility to the architectural neighborhood and dressing-up the unfortunate building that stands behind; the honest, straight-forward symbolism is eloquent in simplicity, demonstrating what becomes a memorial in the people’s city.
EISENHOWER MEMORIAL COMMITTEE COMMENDATION
Franck & Lohsen/Cook
Scaled to world-class monuments, a 50 foot high base supports a 100 foot tall, banded Doric column that itself is surmounted by a 28 foot high statue at whose foot is an observation deck from where admirers can review the field of the city that reclines beautifully, below. This pentagonal column, unique in history, organizes a sculptural program deep in allegorical allusion and rich in meaning (the philosophical content is too broad for detail, here.) The upper plaza, approached through four monumental staircases, acknowledges Pierre L’Enfant’s District of Columbia plan by placing the memorial on axis with the Capitol Building. An open street front, tree-framed walks, and gates lead into a tastefully appointed, urban park where are found semi-private plazas and an exhibition pavilion. Water-cool fountains punctuate the points of the pentagon in the mosaic of an inspired esquisse.
This triumphal arch exists before and after present-day, pretending a taxis familiar to Capitol – Washington – Lincoln, but unarticulated in the built community as it now is. In composition geometric, tripartite, correct; sized to the precinct, scaled to the city, proportioned to the form; fitting in detail. The drawing shows the outlines of winged Victories, national symbols, Eisenhower the general, Eisenhower the president, and the small inscription “PEACE THROUGH UNDERSTANDING” on the arch; Freedom surmounts fountain based columns on either side the arch.
This well composed drawing pictures a statue of General Eisenhower set within a Palladian arch of a hemicycle peristyle. Quiet, polite, and unassuming the memorial occupies the center of the memorial district on axis with Maryland Avenue, facing the Capitol Dome. Spare architectural decorations include five stars representing Eisenhower’s Army rank, the tondos of the spandrels feature the Seal of the Army and the Seal of the President, bronze eagles spread their wings atop the legs of tripod braziers. The general stands in his familiar pose, seen from all axes of the gently composed park.
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
Two chapters of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life are memorialized in statues within peristyles at either end of a colonnade. Statues stand 18’ tall beneath monumental, Parthenon Doric columns. The western peristyle represents—as stated in 20” V-grove letters cut in the architrave—SUPREME COMANDER ALLIED FORCES EUROPE 1943-1945; the eastern peristyle represents PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES 1953-1961; and the colonnade of 50 columns representing the various States reads DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER. The ground plane of the monumental precinct is laid-over with olive branches of variegated, green granite that meet at two 70’ terrazzo hemispheres: the old world toward the general; the new world toward the president. A curtain-wall of Mediterranean Cyprus separates the monumental precinct from a soft-scape plaza designed for the recreation of Federal government employees and District of Columbia visitors.
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
This thoughtful, genteel urban plan colonizes the surrounding, vacuous neighborhood: Pedestrian in use, democratic in character, this memorial imagines a fullness in the experience of time and that texture of life unconsidered by the designers of those egoistic architectural piles that would surround this memorial precinct. Unusual in the entries to the “Eisenhower Memorial Counterproposal Competition”, the plan includes both commercial and memorial activity in a scale suited to humanity and in a manner that addresses the vicissitudes of urban living. Various features include: An allegoric statue of “Freedom” in Eisenhower Plaza; a Memorial Hall that houses a statue of “Eisenhower” and which links through a connecting loggia-gallery to the memorial’s Welcome Pavilion; Maryland Square, formed by tasteful commercial buildings, contains a lawn, fountain, and community kiosk; a soldier statue salutes those who enter the precinct along the primary walk, other walks offer marble benches and quiet courtyards; and, as mentioned above, seats, flagpoles, columns, and trees continue with verisimilitude the memorial into the surrounding neighborhood.
A pre-modernist, fully mature grove curtains the banality of the surrounding buildings and frames the elegant obelisk. Low-lying, pentagonal benches encircle the memorials center. The modest sculptural program includes trophies of war and homely episodes of the general’s life. A single quote illuminates the memorial’s object, “THE HISTORY OF FREE PEOPLE IS NOT WRITTEN BY CHANCE BUT BY CHOICE.”
This delicate memorial centers a lovely tempietto within a mosaic plaza that curtains its stage with a stand of fulsome trees.
Unapologetically modernist in design, this memorial ignores the humanizing conventions of kindness, sympathy, and grace replacing these conventions with brutal aggression, irony, and ugliness. Rules of decorum, guidelines of friendly competition, and neighborly consideration too are ignored in the lustful desire to transfigure Dwight D. Eisenhower into the rusted metal confusion of a diseased ethic. Randomly considered, a random statement “…pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat…” perhaps intended for the verso of the “President’s Last Speech casted in Virginia Marble” describes the memorial’s ill-intention.
Clifford G. Duch
This economical solution to the Eisenhower Memorial problem leaves Maryland Avenue undisturbed and forms three triangular parks: The obtuse park seems to serve employees of the adjacent Federal building; the equilateral park is raised and empty of all but trees; the isosceles park is a nicely composed memorial district containing a reflecting pool, an arch like, stepped-attic tempietto, three statues of Eisenhower (soldier, educator, and statesman) and a Victory figure who stands above an unoccupied pedestal that “…awaits the service of all who visit.”
A low oval-domed heroum contains a cult statue of Eisenhower, Quatrocento-like entrances to the basement gallery, and suitable, sculpture decoration.
[Proposed Eisenhower Memorial]This memorial, known as “the Gehry”, is intended for temporary tourist attraction, glowing praise, and a mishandling of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s memory. Its features include gargantuan, pictured billboards flanked by 80 foot high tubes, pillars linked by steel-meshy rugs of silver-and-black that exhibit Eisenhower’s life in pornographic detail, an old tree, an angular reflecting pool, and various quotes stamped on curved limestone planks dropped here-and-there. Sympathetic to that notion of progress apparent in the surrounding starchitect buildings, this memorial out-does its neighbors by out-doing the out-doing, and, at the inevitable dead-end, the inventor of the thing seems not to notice the irony of a monument to nihilism. Yet, it can be said in the award of this memorial—as of many other Gerhy Gerhies—that its virtue was awarded before the award of its award.
The axis of Maryland Avenue is quieted with a cooling pool centered in a park that associates with the Capitol’s noble dome—mediating by curtains of dignified oaks and lovely flowering trees the mundane reality of comings-and-goings. A noble monumental group occupies the island of the pool: on the richly detailed base, Athena in three meaningful symbolizes Eisenhower the man, the soldier, the statesman; atop the Greek Goddess, the American General commands time, forever poised, like Belisarius whose cloak would catch the wind.
This memorial is sympathetic to the surrounding modernistic buildings and to a greatest hits notion of the Federal City. The unadorned temple box is raised upon unarticulated columns; apertures in the faux masonry walls open toward the White House, the Air and Space Museum, and the Capitol Building—along the axis of Maryland Avenue; a Historic Walk leads visitors down into the monument past meaningful quotes from Eisenhower speeches; a monumental statue of Eisenhower addresses his imagined troops within the confines of the monumental box whose closeness opens to a light-streaming, ceiling oculus; memorial visitors are encouraged to look back on their journey through the memorial and forward to a world changed by the hero’s actions.
This contemporary solution to urban monuments sinks Maryland Avenue below the street-level, golf-course-like park—a park reminiscent of Eisenhower’s well-loved sport. The sunken plaza is entered along descending allees of trees to an open-air plaza that is framed by battered limestone, retaining walls. The walls are decorated with narrative reliefs telling the story of Eisenhower’s civilian and soldier life, and the centered , pergola-like pavilion lends shade to the quieted plaza. Two genre statues decorate the lawn: Eisenhower saluting; young Eisenhower feeding chickens.
J. Brantley Hightower
The difficult problem of the triumphal arch is masterfully addressed in this strong design: Maryland Avenue is retained but diverted to Independence Avenue, the axis with the Capitol too is retained, but it does not address the Capitol, the Memorial Arch is held by a necessary, magnetic attraction to the life-size statue of Eisenhower who holds his place within the Memorial Pavilion. Each contingent part of this well conceived, expertly designed memorial endows the precinct with physical meaning, of the man, world events, the plan of Washington, and the nation.
C. J. Howard
A well composed, pentagonal Corinthian tempietto is quartered within the rampart knee wall that encompasses this memorial site. Several features inform the pseudo-pastoral site: A statue of president Eisenhower within the tempietto; the requisite flag post; a sculptural group representing “Eisenhower the Educator and Family-Man”; a fountain with amphibian vehicle that recalls Eisenhower’s European campaign, and which itself remembers the Roman rostrum—a speaking platform created from the prow of a captured Carthaginian ship.
The most consciously post-modern of the Eisenhower Memorial designs: Corinthian columns shrink as we ascend along a meandering, appliquéd pavilion to Eisenhower in the penultimate plaza and then we descend, again. There too is a galleria and many amusing features.
The Oval Office of the Presidency is memorialized in this playful composition that pays respect to fine architectural details and every-day objects. The 18’ high bronze, president Eisenhower stands in scale to the marble objects of his familiar life, accurately disposed around the precinct. Other elements peopling the precinct include four sacrarium that corner the oval, a shrouded obelisk with aedicule, and a ball-topped obelisk. Visitors are happily considered with a parking lot, curiosities shop, and relieving rooms.
This memorial gently fortresses itself from blunt modernity with a close-woven wall of trees; within the fortress, raised upon a low acropolis, a tripartite temple whose interior museo narrates Dwight David Eisenhower’s life and time. The analytique is fitting and beautifully rendered: a colonnade of stout, Greek Doric columns flank the eloquent Corinthian statuary hall which opens onto a well-ordered parade ground. The 1890, 44 star flag is unfurled to the west; the 1969, 50 star flag to the east.
Charles Lloyd Mashburn
Numerous stele, each with five stars and a repeated portrait tondo flank low, narrative reliefs that tell the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower. This mod, park-like maze leads visitors here-and-there, through-and-past walks, lawns, trees, and pools inevitably, but not necessarily to the armillary-like globe that marks Eisenhower’s travels; here too are pools representing the oceans and reliefs and informational placards. The memorial—planted on ground staked by L’Enfant and McMillian—compliments the neighboring buildings: Alike the central feature of this memorial, its meaning sinks deeply to its purpose, which although not as readily apparent as its monumental statue, may occur in the deeper labyrinths of the Freudian mind.