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Eisenhower Memorial design goes to key DC panel

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts was expected Thursday to review architect Frank Gehry's design for a planned national memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington.

It's one of two panels that must approve the design, along with the National Park Service, in order for the $142 million project to move forward.

The 14-year-old memorial project has been on hold for more than a year after Eisenhower's family and other groups raised objections to the design concept.

Gehry has proposed a memorial park with statues of Ike as president and World War II hero. The park would be framed by large metal tapestries depicting the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower's boyhood home.

In 2011, the fine arts commission granted approval for Gehry's overall concept, including the tapestries that have drawn objections. But the panel has not yet reviewed the plans for statues and stone carvings in the central core of a planned memorial park.

The imagery would show Eisenhower as president signing the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to advance equal rights for African Americans. Other stone carvings would show the D-Day landing at Normandy in World War II as a backdrop for a statue depicting Eisenhower addressing his troops.

A recently published 100-year history of the commission's work, entitled "Civic Art," shows national memorial projects are almost always controversial, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Eisenhower's family and other critics have called for a simple memorial and have objected to Gehry's idea for metal tapestries showing Eisenhower's home. The tapestries, in particular, would make this different from any other memorial in Washington.

The memorial project must be reauthorized by Congress in order to stay on track this year. A bill in the House, though, has called for the memorial to be redesigned. An analysis of that idea by the Congressional Budget Office last week found that scrapping the current concept and developing an alternate design through a new design competition would cost $17 million.