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On the Growing Controversy Over Gehry's Eisenhower Memorial

Amanda Hurley examines the furor that has developed in the four months since a design by Frank Gehry for a memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower, destined for a four-acre site just off the National Mall in Washington D.C., was made public.
March 20, 2012, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Critics from across the political and design landscape have been lining up to attack the design and its famous creator since Eisenhower's granddaughters, Susan and Anne, launched the first anti-memorial volley in The Washington Post last December, culminating in a debate scheduled for today at a House hearing.

Conservative critics, including the National Civic Art Society (NCAS), right-leaning publications like The Daily Caller and The American Spectator, and architectural traditionalists, have challenged the project's "style, scale, and use of an unconventional material," reports Hurley.

While Hurley accepts that some questions related to design, and the story it tells, may be valid items for debate, she sees the design competition process by which Gehry was selected as ripe for criticism.

"The controversy exposes the drawbacks of a fast-track, closed competition. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission followed the federal government's mostly laudable Design Excellence Program, which has been instrumental in getting more top-tier architects designing federal buildings by streamlining the selection process. But that program's pre-qualification of architects based on past work rules out finding young designers who might be the next Maya Lin-one cogent point made by an NCAS report amid its blizzard of otherwise hysterical rhetoric."

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Published on Monday, March 19, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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