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First look at Frank Gehry's Eisenhower Memorial

March 25, 2010 |  4:18 pm

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Preliminary designs unveiled this afternoon for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, designed by Frank Gehry, combine the architect's trademark energetic and jumbled forms with a sense of subdued, essentially neoclassical order and rhythm.

After winning a design competition for the memorial a year ago, Gehry and his firm were asked to produce three separate design options, one of which was chosen today by the 12 members of Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

The memorial to the 34th president will be built on a four-acre site along Independence Avenue, close to but not directly on the National Mall and backing up to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building. That separation from the Mall, according to a statement from Gehry's office, gives the location "an urban quality that is unique among the other major memorials."

The chosen design concept is the grandest of the options presented by Gehry's office, though anyone expecting to see the flamboyant forms the architect has sometimes employed will likely be surprised by the memorial's generally straightforward and rather historically minded approach. Gehry's statement said the underlying goal of the design is to represent "a president widely viewed as modest in character but defined by great and vast accomplishments."

The design, which Gehry and his colleagues will flesh out in the months to come, combines a grove of oak trees, two parallel colonnades of limestone pillars and loosely piled limestone walls carved with sculptural reliefs -- elements common to all three proposals -- with a series of woven steel-mesh tapestries that will feature images of Eisenhower and his presidency. There is a gap in the colonnade as it runs along Independence, creating an opening framing views of the Capitol and also marking an informal pedestrian entry into the memorial site.

While the oak trees should provide plenty of shade -- along with pockets of contemplative space -- the tapestries will give much of the memorial the feeling of an expansive outdoor stage set. Gehry came up with the idea for the steel-mesh panels while exploring the tapestry collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his firm has been working on an expansion.

More images after the jump. Click any of them to enlarge.

-- Christopher Hawthorne


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Eisenhower_ViewFromIndependenceAvenueLookingSouth  
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Credits: Images from Gehry Partners.

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