The editorial board of the New York Times has stepped into the ring for Frank Gehry's embattled Eisenhower memorial design, an altered version of which was given the green light by the Fine Arts Commission three weeks ago. The final battle for the memorial will be in Congress, where the financing of the estimated $140M construction bill still needs to be approved, and the Times' argument is perhaps the strongest one there is in support of the thing. In effect, their point is "holy God, it's been like 15 years, can we not have to go through all that again?"
The board praises Gehry's plan as "innovative and modernistic," writes off the many aesthetic denunciations it has received, even from the Eisenhower family, as predictable objections of "neo-classicists" contributing to the "usual rounds of controversy and delay that all memorial designs in Washington have to endure on the road to final approval." The memorial is an "overdue" tribute to Dwight D. Eisenhower, in light of his strength as both a president and a commander, but more importantly, because it was first approved by Congress a godforsaken decade-and-a-half ago, during which time other drawn-out, divisive Gehry projects have had their days in the sun and been snuffed out.
In the board's view, the Republican-led House committee that deemed the project a "five-star folly" and urged a complete restart did so "pretentiously." After Gehry equanimously agreed to adapt the project himself, rather than allow others to butcher it—he threatened, let's remember, to have his name removed if that happened—he "creatively" changed around a few things without "stalking from the field of battle in artistic umbrage." (Which is not to say the 86-year-old doesn't have that kind of umbrage in him.)
The final design, with its "evocation of the fields of Kansas and the valor of West Point," is proclaimed by the board to be "worthy of President Eisenhower." But they end on a quote from Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform, in which he not-so-movingly declares "we can't go back to Square One." If Gehry's design prevails, this reluctance to start the whole miserable process all over again will most certainly be the reason why.