Photo: © Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Washington, D.C., is finally ready to say “I like Ike.” After two decades of planning and a fair share of controversy, a 4-acre tribute to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the U.S., opened to the public last month. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Eisenhower Memorial can be found in a newly created park, adjacent to the National Mall and across the street from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum—a fitting location, considering Eisenhower established both NASA and the FAA in the 1950s.
The monument combines bronze statues of Eisenhower as a boy, as Supreme 50 Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II, and as president; a 60-foot-tall woven stainless-steel tapestry by artist Thomas Osinski that depicts the cliffs of Normandy; and stone bas-reliefs of the D-Day landing. Inscription panels featuring lines from Eisenhower speeches offer context for his presidency and highlight key moments in his life. A quote from his second inaugural address, in 1957, seems particularly poignant today: “We look upon this shaken earth, and we declare our firm and fixed purpose—the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral law prevails.”
Eisenhower is only the seventh president to be honored with a memorial or monument in the nation’s capital. And, surprisingly, this is Gehry’s first public work in D.C. The famed architect has said that he was initially drawn to the project because he served in the Third Army while Eisenhower was president.
As for when to visit, the memorial is best viewed at night, when lights illuminate the tapestry, emphasizing its extreme delicacy. “The tapestry, with the drawing of Pointe du Hoc, is meant to represent a memory; the memory of the monumental task that the brave Allied soldiers faced, staring up at those rocks as they landed on the beaches of France, and how difficult it must have been for them to scale those heights with the full force of the Nazi forces pushing against them,” Gehry said in a statement. “It is a place to remember the heart and soul required to take such a risk, and the daring and brilliance of Eisenhower.”