Housing Complex

Who Cares What Susan Eisenhower Thinks?

The hated tapestries.

Yesterday, Congress poked its nose into the debate over the Eisenhower Memorial on Maryland Avenue SW, which neoclassists upset with Frank Gehry's design have had remarkable success in elevating to a fever pitch on the Internet. Much of the coverage and the opposition thus far has centered on the objections of Eisenhower family members, who complain that the current design doesn't focus enough on their ancestor's monumental achievements, and read all sorts of terrible symbolism in the monument's massive "tapestries."

The most level-headed analysis comes from the Post's Phil Kennicott, who actually kind of likes Gehry's design, and asks why we should care what President Eisenhower's descendants think:

The involvement of the Eisenhower grandchildren also underscores the inherent problem of memorializing a civic figure too soon after his death. The Eisenhowers no more own the legacy of their grandfather than any soldier who served under him, or any citizen a century from now reading about him in a history book. When Susan Eisenhower said Tuesday that her grandfather “was well known not to have much care for modern art,” she introduced two irrelevant criteria for judging Gehry’s work: her memories of her grandfather, and her grandfather’s dislike of contemporary design. Memorials aren’t designed to appeal to their subjects, but to represent their subjects in meaningful ways to future generations.

I'm agnostic at this point on whether or not it's a great design. It would have been nice to have a more open process through which more ideas could have come to the table. But putting the merits of the argument aside, being descended from a great person gives you no special right to how that person gets memorialized. So can we stop listening to Susan Eisenhower now?

  • JustMe

    People care what Susan Eisenhower thinks because she articulates what a lot of people feel, and she's a good spokesperson for those concerns.

    It's not that she should have some kind of veto power over the memorial, but someone needs to represent the interest group in favor of a redesign, and it might as well be her.

  • c a clarkson

    Since you are so uninformed about professional and architectural views on this, why should we care what you think. Poor Kennicott is the only critic I've seen who doesn't acknowledge that Gehry's proposal is incomprehensible. (other than the WSJ review done by a critic who was on the Eisenhower Memorial commission payroll)

  • ACG

    I completely agree Lydia. We do not need her approval - its a civic issue.

  • http://tsarchitect.nsflanagan.net цarьchitect

    A breath of fresh air.

    Criticism of the Eisenhower Memorial has been coming from multiple angles, only one of them its rhetorical aspect.

    I respect that Susan Eisenhower has particular knowledge of her father, and she needs to be listened to, but it is important to think of this as a memorial for the American people and not for Eisenhower.

  • Citytide

    Great article, great quote!

  • Dave B

    i wish somebody said to her "...or we could just not do the memorial altogether..."

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

    "People care what Susan Eisenhower thinks because she articulates what a lot of people feel"

    That's it in a nutshell for me! I think the memorial design is just plain ugly. Pretty much anything else would be an improvement. How about a bronze statue of Eisenhower, on a granite pedestal, in a grassy park surrounded by benches and Washington Globe-style streetlamps? Simple, elegant, contextual, and inexpensive.

  • lilkunta

    Sadly i think we have to listen to her opinion bc more than likely her family owns the copyright to his image. So if we dont acquiesece she may up the price or cancel her approval.

  • Axel

    I'm surprised the author knows much about Eisenhower, our foremost anti-hipster president.

    However, I like Ike. I just don't like Gehry's design. Time to send it back to thd drawing board.