According to BD Online:
"Frank Gehry and Moshe Safdie are among the seven architects who have made the shortlist for the competition to design the £60 million National Eisenhower Memorial in Washington DC.
The other five are Ralph Johnson of Perkins & Will; landscape architect Peter Walker; New York firm Rogers Marvel Architects; Ron Krueck of Krueck & Sexton Architects; and San Francisco-based Stanley Saitowitz."
This news is dissapointing on two levels. First the continuation of the dominant status quo in architecture of whizbang modernism, without any deference or respect for the depth of classical architecture. Doubtless some classical architect out there, and there are many that have the resume of Gehry et al (many in fact have more significant projects built than most of the finalists), submitted some sort of design for the project, but why only modernist firms? The complete disregard of ANY sort of classically minded firm is shameful. Americans love classical architecture, as a recent poll proved, but are sneered at by the press as being ignorant. Why shouldn't America get a chance to have a classical monument, like the ones so beloved by the country that exist in DC already?
The answer? The deck is stacked. Which leads to the second dissapointment, the process. The process to select the design was not as one might expect, an open competition of designs. The commision used the architectural establishment's little dirty secret, the RFQ, a "Request For Qualifications." This process does not weigh competing designs, weighing them on the merit of the proposal, the beauty or the genius of the design, but instead looks for "qualified" architects. This gives you one of two things, a "qualified" but banal designer, who has a lot to show, or apparently in this case, a lot of flashy names who's primary qualification is that they are famous.
The designs? Oh they'll come later. According to Archpaper.com: "None of the finalists have presented designs, and most likely won't before the winner is selected. 'I haven't really though of it', said Saitowitz. How can one get a great memorial for one of our most distinguished President's and General's if we don't even have a design? I believe that competitions, while not perfect, certainly bring out much better design than simply just naming someone and hoping that because he/she is "qualified we'll get a great place and memorial. I suppose that doesn't matter to whoever the jury were (they weren't revealed), I guess that they just want to have "A Gehry" or something whizbang to show that DC can be stylish like New York or Chicago.
The RFP system should be scrapped for all Federal projects, especially memorials and smaller buildings. Instead we should have open competitions, where common people get to decide. We would open the arts to architects and artists that appear to be now "unqualified" but would be able to adorn our Capital with great monuments again.