The long-awaited Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is now open to visitors. This newest addition to DC’s monument landscape creates a park-like, four-acre plaza amidst the unprepossessing bureaucratic office buildings that line the Mall’s south side.
As conceived by architect Frank Gehry, the $150 million memorial in stacked pink limestone is anchored by two tableaux of heroic-sized bronze figures and stone bas relief, crafted by Russian sculptor Sergey Eylanbekov. The statues depict the 34th president in two historic roles: as a general commanding troops on D-Day and a president flanked by advisors as he prepares his second inaugural address.
The tableaux stand against the backdrop of a 60-foot-tall, 450-foot-wide stainless-steel tapestry by industrial designer Tomas Osinski that maps the Normandy coastline. In daylight, the screen-like installation partially obscures the behemoth Department of Education building behind it, while lit up at night, the effect is dramatic. Freestanding limestone columns—two of them bearing plaques that record the dates of Eisenhower’s military service and presidency—accentuate the tapestry and bookend the plaza. Commemorative speeches by Eisenhower are etched on the back of each tableau. At one end of the plaza, a sculpture of Eisenhower as a boy appears to contemplate the future.
The Eisenhower Memorial faces the Air and Space Museum. Off to the right down Maryland Avenue, the Capitol is in view (above), making an important visual connection.
Architecture: Frank Gehry, FAIA, Gehry Partners, LLP, Los Angeles, California. Construction: Clark Construction Group, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. Photography: Joseph Ireland.