September 18, 2014 / 2:33 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. panel puts off decision on designs for troubled Eisenhower Memorial

(This Sept. 17 story corrects that Issa is on planning commission, not Eisenhower panel, in paragraph 11)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A decision on the design of Washington’s troubled Eisenhower Memorial was delayed on Wednesday as the panel overseeing its construction failed to muster a quorum in its first meeting in 15 months.

The meeting of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission had been seen as a chance to find a way forward for the monument to the 34th president and World War Two general after years of delays. The panel was to choose between alternatives to a contentious design by celebrity architect Frank Gehry.

But only five of 12 members showed up, with Chairman Rocco Siciliano attending by speaker phone. Eight members are U.S. lawmakers and the meeting coincided with a House of Representatives vote over arming and training rebels in Syria.

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of a slowdown, but it was not our intention to do that. We wanted a full meeting,” Commissioner Alfred Geduldig said.

Panel members will be canvassed by next Wednesday over a proposal to submit two alternative designs to a Washington planning commission for review on Oct. 2.

The proposed memorial at the base of Capitol Hill has been on the drawing board for 15 years. It has cost taxpayers $41 million with no design in place.

The Eisenhower site would be one of the biggest monuments in a city packed with memorials and government buildings.

Gehry’s proposal for the 4-acre site featured 80-foot-tall columns supporting stainless steel mesh tapestries depicting Eisenhower’s boyhood state, Kansas.

But the planning board rejected the design in April amid criticism the design was too big and blocked views of the Capitol.

Gehry came back this month with a stripped-down version that eliminated two of the tapestries and two of the 10 columns.

A member of the planning commission, Republican U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, who heads a congressional committee with oversight of the District of Columbia, is proposing a second alternative that would do away with the tapestries and columns. Only a core element of statues and other sculptures would be left.

The Eisenhower family has long opposed Gehry’s design, and Congress has twice cut off construction funding for the memorial. A report by a congressional committee in July called it a “five-star folly.”

Editing by Susan Heavey and Peter Cooney

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