Metal tapestry at night at Eisenhower Memorial Commission; Credit: Architect Magazine.

Metal Tapestry is Key Feature in Frank Gehry’s New Eisenhower Memorial

According to Architect Magazine, the memorial, designed by Frank Gehry, FAIA, and executed in partnership with AECOM is scheduled to open on Septemeber 17. Its key feature is a metal tapestry 60 feet tall and 450 feet wide—almost three quarters of an acre of woven stainless steel, held aloft by piers the height of an eight-story building. The screen replicates a freehand sketch by Gehry himself of Pointe du Hoc, a D-Day landing site in Normandy. The tapestry is nearly transparent in daytime: The gridded façade of the 1961 Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, designed by the firms Faulkner, Kingsbury and Stenhouse and Chatelain, Gauger and Nolan, is visible behind it. But when the sun goes down, the memorial comes alive by a special lighting scheme done by the New York firm L’Observatoire International that make the outlines of Gehry’s sketch glow brightly on the tapestry.

Apparently, the project was not without controversy. The tribute to the former president in the nation’s capital that took almost 20 years and $150 million to complete. While President Eisenhower was known for “his modesty,” his family criticized Gehry’s design as “too extravagant” and would have preferred a “simple statue in a park.”

The memorial is located just southwest of the Capitol and the four-acre site on Independence Avenue feels more like a park than a memorial. Gehry Partners, working with AECOM landscape architect Roger Courtenay, added nearly 100 trees, many of which gently screen the screen. Together, the tapestry and trees attempt to soften the 500-foot-long façade of the LBJ building.

After several design revisions, eventually, Gehry drew his sketch of Pointe du Hoc, and artist Tomas Osinski found a way to reproduce it using “threads” of stainless steel welded onto a stainless steel grid.

Gehry’s sketch of Pointe du Hoc in Normandy on Eisenhower Memorial Commission; Credit: Architect Magazine
The tapestry as seen from the Department of Education side of the memorial; Credit: Architect Magazine