Lawmakers to Ask Where $62 Million Went for Unbuilt Ike Memorial

by ELIZABETH FLOCK, USNews.com  |  published on March 20, 2013

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It’s been a long and bitter fight, but soon the debate over a controversial design by architect Frank Gehry for a memorial honoring former president and D-Day commander Dwight D. Eisenhower just south of the National Mall may soon be all over.

Congress passed a law authorizing a memorial for Ike back in 1999. But it took 10 years—following a closed competition for designs—to announce the memorial’s architect would be the world-renowned Frank Gehry, who designed the famed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, as well as the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millenium Park.

A year later, Gehry’s design was released to the public: a memorial made of giant columns and tapestries and including a barefoot young Ike near the center.

Since then, things have quickly unraveled. The family decried Gehry’s design, with granddaughter Susan Eisenhower telling the Washingtonian Magazine it looked “like a theme park.” The National Civic Art Society began asking architects to submit alternate designs to Gehry’s. The House Oversight Committee chairman Darrel Issa, R-Calif., said he had questions about the closed process by which Gehry was chosen. And a group of historians, architects and concerned citizens formed to oppose the memorial, calling themselves “Right by Ike.”

Now, with the seven-year time limit up to build the memorial (and not an ounce of Earth turned in the effort), Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has introduced legislation to scrap the design and eliminate $100 million in funding. A hearing will be held by the House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday to look at what went wrong.

“Before we provide additional funding, we need an accurate and full account where funds have been appropriated,” Bishop’s spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin tells Whispers. “We don’t have an accurate account of how $62 million was spent.”

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