July 12, 2013
Pity the architect who agrees to design and build a memorial for the National Mall. Just about every such monument has met impassioned opposition and complaints during design and construction. Even the Washington Monument, the capital city's most iconic landmark, was thought to be an unsightly boondoggle by some. "Better, indeed, that it should crumble into dust in its present incompleteness than to become an everlasting witness to our ignorance and want of taste," a New York Times art critic decried in 1879.
And history has repeated itself. As I wrote in April, the proposed design for the Dwight D. Einsenhower memorial have not pleased many, with the most vocal dissents coming from the Eisenhower family. So in March, a small cadre of Republican representatives proposed to start from scratch. So far, about $60 million has been spoken for in the project that was comissioned in 2002 (the cost would total $142 million upon completion).
The redesign process, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, would cost $17 million over the next five years. Upon redesign, the memorial's final total could, in theory, come in a lot cheaper than the $142 million. And maybe people will be happy with it. After all, as The New Yorker surmised, "It has managed to achieve something rare in Washington: In true bipartisan spirit, almost everyone hates it."
Maybe our great, great grandchildren will live to see it.
July 12, 2013