The art of memorial design competitions

Comment: Off

In my long life in public and private service, I have striven to act with integrity and clarity, whether as a soldier in World War II, an Eisenhower White House appointee, undersecretary of commerce under President Richard M. Nixon, president and chief executive of a company or the chair of many philanthropic organizations, including the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute.

In his March 9 Local Opinions commentary, “Moment of truth for the Eisenhower memorial,” Sam Roche engaged in ad hominem attacks on me in my role as chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, including the suggestion that I “rebuffed” my late, good friend, former senator Daniel Inouye. As the leaders of the commission, Mr. Inouye and I always acted in concert, and to suggest otherwise is offensive to the memory of a great public servant and war hero. Our communications were always respectful and focused on how best to proceed together. And, for the record, I played no role in the selection of Frank Gehry to design the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Mr. Roche did get one thing right, however: He wrote that I am a tireless defender of the Gehry design for the Eisenhower memorial. Indeed I am, along with my fellow commissioners who have unanimously supported Mr. Gehry’s design at four meetings of the commission. I believe Mr. Gehry has uniquely captured the many facets of a remarkable American and the contributions he made to our nation. I remain committed to leading the commission in the ongoing effort to ensure that the Eisenhower memorial, as magnificently captured by this design, becomes a reality.

Rocco C. Siciliano, Washington

The writer is chairman of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

Neil Flanagan was absolutely right that open design contests for memorials produce poor results — but only by taking the narrowest and least informed view of these competitions [“How to get a memorable memorial,” letters, March 11]. Had he looked further, he would have found it difficult to explain the success of the open competitions that produced the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, many of our state capitols, the Battleship Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and three Sept. 11 memorials, among countless others.

Two things should be kept in mind: Memorials are an inherently difficult subject, whether procured through commission or competitions; and open competitions have to be run properly, in accordance with long-proven methods. They are the fairest and most democratic method of procuring designs for important public buildings, certainly memorials. They have attracted brilliant American designers from Thomas Jefferson on, and the winners are more often the unknown than the known.

Paul Spreiregen, Washington

The writer, an architect, served as the professional adviser for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial competition.



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