Dear Mr. Whitesell:
In its meeting of 18 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the submission of the design of several elements to complete the concept design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial at Independence and Maryland Avenues between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. The Commission approved the presented designs—for the central memorial elements, the planning of the site, and the ancillary structures—and made several recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission complimented the design team for the extensive and thorough studies of the memorial's core elements, as presented in the many physical models and sculptural maquettes. In general, the Commission members continued to express support for the overall design and high artistry of the proposed memorial, including the monumental columns and woven metal tapestries that define the four–acre site, characterizing the layering of trees, tapestries, and sculpture as a beautiful composition. They endorsed the organization of the site with the consolidation of the memorial elements at the center, but they recommended further development of the concept of the landscape as a memorial within a park. They suggested reconsidering the necessity of the columns along the east and west ends of the site, which they said may contribute to an impression of massive scale that is incongruent with Eisenhower's characteristic humility. In particular, they noted the visual effect of the column at the northwest corner, which emphasizes the colossal scale as visitors approach the memorial along Independence Avenue.
For the tripartite composition of walls, statuary, and inscriptions at the memorial's core, the Commission members supported the proposed concept of stone walls with quotations as framing devices for bas–relief scenes and bronze figures representing the role of Dwight D. Eisenhower as a general and as president. For the sculptures, they noted the disparity of presenting General Eisenhower as part of a group and President Eisenhower alone; they suggested refining the design—perhaps in the degree of relief—to create a balance between the two panels and the multiple depictions of the subject. They supported the portrayal of Eisenhower as a youth placed on the central wall, but questioned the diminutive scale of the figure in relation to the heroic size of the nearby sculptures. They suggested refinement of the design of the stone elements, particularly the offset lintels above the bas–relief panels below; they noted that the detailing of the stone joints would inevitably reveal these blocks to be composed of many smaller pieces instead of the monoliths implied by the presentation materials.
Noting the lack of conceptual development of the landscape in comparison to the central commemorative elements, the Commission requested development of the site design to support the idea of a memorial within a public landscape. Specifically, they recommended a more robust architecture and canopy of trees within the landscape to relate more deliberately to the larger elements of the memorial, to define the central allée of Maryland Avenue more tightly, and to create a more hospitable microclimate. They requested further development of the site's ground plane, noting that the treatment of swales and paved walks should be reconsidered in their role to enhance the visitor experience within this public space.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing further development of the memorial's design, particularly in the conception of the memorial's landscape as a unifying element, as well as the details of the columns, tapestries, statuary, inscriptions, signage, lighting, and other details. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Steve Whitesell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Peter May, National Park Service
Carl W. Reddel, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners
Joe Brown, AECOM