Housing Complex

Watch Out Frank Gehry, Your Design’s On Notice

Remember the National Civic Art Society, the group that opposed D.C.'s wacky modern libraries? They're back in action this week with the winners of a design contest for alternatives to Frank Gehry's somewhat-outside-the-box plan for the Eisenhower Memorial on Maryland Avenue SW, which boardmembers felt would be an "uncivil, brutal insult to the classical city envisioned by Pierre L'Enfant and our nation's Founders."

And the submissions they chose are...decidedly more traditional. The $1,000-winning first place design, by Daniel W. Cook, looks like a replica of the Arc de Triomphe. The runner up is of a classically martial character as well. Will they win over the powers that be? Unlikely—though if Gehry were decommissioned, D.C. might be able to make a case for getting that $300 million promised to a city that doesn't hire him.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    Well, DC doesn't have a good triumphal arch as most world capitals do in some form or other, and NYC has 2, so we do need one. :) I'm also not a fan of Gehry's design for the Eisenhower memorial and wish he would be given the boot. Ugly ugly ugly.

  • Bob See

    A triumphal arch that leads nowhere. The second place entry is better.

    At least Gehry's design has a sense of place. This is just some objects plunked down on a site and surrounded by generic landscaping.

  • just sayin’

    Fascist bullshit worthy of Mussolini. Triumphal arches are un-American, and this one in particular an insult to the man it purports to honor.

  • DesignNut

    Why would we choose to once again pick through the bones of Neoclassical as opposed to working with (arguably) one of the sharpest minds of 21st Century architecture? Do the designers and curators honestly believe these schemes work on a site dominated by the mid-century facades that surround it? I don't get it.

  • MBG

    If the "sharpest minds of 21st Century architecture" produce things like Gehry's monstrosity, let's go for some that are a bit duller. "Gehry for Gehry's sake" is a waste of money. The location and obliteration of a L'Enfant avenue are enough of a problem. Put paid to it and start over somehwhere else.

  • Howard Segermark

    Remember that the classical was the architecture of humanism. Albert Speer adopted it in part to give the Third Reich a human face. The democratic ideals in classical architechure transend the atomist designs of the bauhaus nihilists like Gehry.

  • RT

    Whatever happens, please don't allow Gehry's HORRIBLE design to come to fruition. It sucks

  • ZZinDC

    Oh for god's sake... a triumphal arch. Really? I suppose that it is approproate for Eisenhower in a way that might not be true for anyone else. But there is no law that says an arch must be in classical form - how about an arch in contemporary, 21st century design? Or even 20th century design, to reflect the Eisenhower era and the buildings surounding the site? Why not ask Gehry to use his building block forms to ceate an modern arch? (Also: I agree with the previous poster - this is an arch to nowhere.... if an arch is imperative, it should be somewhere else. Or at least over Independence Ave, not along it.)

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    Amongst these entries, I actually prefer the runner-up.

    The arch just doesn't work for an individual for me. The runner up at least plays on the current arrangement of all of the various equestrian statues in DC circles/squares - they're all facing towards the Capitol or White House, the design respects the orientation of Maryland Ave.

    I don't get what the winning arch does - frame the Dept of Education? No thanks.

  • Smoke_Jaguar4

    If we build an arch to Eisenhower, let's build it over the entrance to the Pentagon and engrave it with Ike's warning of the Military-Industrial Complex:

    "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

    Probably the smartest thing a politician has said in the last 50 years.

  • Doug

    +1 Smoke_Jaguar4

    I don't care what it looks like but can it integrate that qoute.

  • Johnny

    Why does everything in DC have to be such a bore? Google search "abandoned monuments Yugoslavia" to see what else can be done with concrete. We already have a lot of classic memorials. Can't we have some that break from the norm? I swear everyone just has a cow if you propose something without columns and carved stone. It's a wonder the Vietnam memorial came to fruition. I wasn't the biggest fan of Gehrys memorial either but does it mean we need to run back to classical shit with our tails between our legs? I will forever lament the loss of Gehrys Corcoran addition. Last I saw it will end up replaced by a boring box. I swear the man just scares DC into monotonous crap

  • Nat

    Johnny, I checked out the "abandoned monuments of Yugoslavia," and I would recommend others look at it as well to see what awful things can be done with concrete. Some of them are even more stomach-turning than the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the Hirschorn, or HHS.

    Eisenhower was instrumental in saving western civilization from a dark age. He deserves a memorial that is uplifting and inspiring--something I doubt can be created within the confines of modernist dogma. The modernist Vietnam memorial is mournful, not uplifting. The modernist FDR memorial is sprawling, unfocused, and banal.

    Building a classical memorial to Ike would be brave, not cowardly. The cowardly thing to do would be to pick a trendy starchitect and let him create yet another monument to himself. Of course, that's precisely what's happening.

  • Johnny

    We will have to agree to disagree Nat. Have fun ogling DCs newest set of Corinthian columns.