Regardless of whatever problems "star architect" Frank Gehry might be having with the Beekman Tower project and constant issues of being over budget, his brand is something that many cities seem to seek out. Washington has recently been added to that list as Gehry was selected from a short list of firms, that included Ron Krueck of Krueck & Sexton, Rob Rogers and Jonathan Marvel of Rogers Marvel Architects, and Peter Walker of PWP Landscape Architecture, to design a memorial to US president Dwight Eisenhower.
The site for the memorial, which will be Gehry's first project in Washington, is a four acre parcel between 4th and 6th Streets along Independence Avenue right by the Smithsonian air and space museum. At a projected budget of $90-120m, the project will consist of a civic plaza that will serve as both memorial to the 34th president and gathering ground for the public.
The 12-member commission, which selected Gehry, was created by Congress in 1999 and includes David Eisenhower, grandson of the president, and its chairman is lawyer Rocco C. Siciliano who who earned a Bronze Star in World War II and was an assistant to Eisenhower in the White House. Siciliano stated last week that, "We were looking for creativity and looking for ingenuity. We wanted a firm that knows how to bring in the public, with an emphasis on young people. We know it wouldn't be a massive facility."He also added that, "It's appropriate to have one of today's most outstanding architects design a memorial for one of our country's greatest leaders."
The use of the land has been approved by Congress, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. The project is also being sponsored by the National Park Service, which will maintain and manage the site.
Though I am very excited about all the development going on around the area which includes the proposed Black History museum and would like to see how it all comes together, I'm not sure that Gehry is quite the right choice for Washington. Being true to himself and the way he designs, Frank Gehry finds it hard to relate to site context and the Washington mall area is not the kind of location where you just plop down anything. I fear the memorial will have little to do with Eisenhower and more to do with Gehry trying to put his signature mark on Washington.
Some article information has been obtained from: www.guardian.co.uk and www.washingtonpost.com