Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

As Matthew Schmitz notes in an earlier post , a furious effort is now being mounted to challenge the official proposal for an Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC. But before critics are accused of ‘having nothing to offer themselves,’ consider the National Civic Art Society’s counterproposal competition, which has yielded over 40 alternative schemes, submitted by serious architects and thoughtful members of the public. See a slideshow of some of the alternative designs here .

In contrast to Frank Gehry, whose style of architecture can mostly be characterized as dissonant blobism, the designs highlighted by the NCAS are grounded in the classical tradition and feature familiar tropes like pedestals, arches, and vases. In general, the counterproposals boast proportionality and restraint, and manage to impart a sense of grandeur without disregarding the surrounding landscape, historical context, or human visitors for whom the memorial is ultimately being constructed. The best of the counterproposals also feature subtly modern touches, which help prevent them from being mistaken for clones of preexisting monuments.  

Will these counterproposals be enough to stop what some have called the ‘Eisen Curtain’ from descending on the National Mall? Perhaps not, but at the very least they demonstrate that the public is beginning to tire of having ephemeral and alienating concepts imposed on civic space. Crucially, defenders of the Gehry proposal can no longer claim that theirs is the only one with relevance.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles