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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Whole Tapestry of Mess

Feature: Time is running out to save the Eisenhower Memorial

There is a part of me that would like to be able to laugh about the—legally speaking probably imminent but temporally speaking still a ways off—proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

It is, after all, to be built between the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building and the John F. Kennedy-venerating Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, in earshot of the carousel on the National Mall that plays ice cream truck music forever. Designed by Frank Gehry with an estimated cost of some $150 million, it is supposed to include 8 enormous columns, 10 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall, standing about huge and erect, clad in limestone, like some sort of over-enthusiastic temple complex for Osiris or—as others have described them more delicately—missile silos, or smokestacks, or bad jokes about Ike's interstate highway system.

Suspended by some of the pillars will be a vast steel net, 440 feet long, asking to be called a tapestry with tangles of wire standing in for embroidery. Steel nets should catch F/A-18 Hornets but this will probably just catch birds and plastic grocery bags and, one hopes for visibility's sake, an occasional glimmer of sunlight amidst clouded, gray buildings.

Though incongruity is the essence of jokes, what all this incongruity means is that when parents bring their children to see the U.S. memorial of the Supreme Allied Commander and liberator of Western Europe, they will wander through a strange garden, loomed over by pillars and muddled mesh. And that is no laughing matter.


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