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Eisenhower memorial still a 'no'

The grandchildren of Dwight David Eisenhower have given their official response to the latest version of a proposed memorial to the nation's 34th president.

While the family welcomed substantial changes unveiled by architect Frank Gehry earlier this month, including the addition of heroic-scaled statues to the memorial's core, it remains adamantly opposed to the fundamental architectural idea, large metal tapestries depicting scenes from Eisenhower's native Kansas.

"Many of the changes that Gehry Partners made to the design concept are positive and welcomed," said a letter posted Wednesday on Susan Eisenhower's blog.

"The scope and scale of the metal scrims, however, remain controversial and divisive. Not only are they the most expensive element of the Gehry design, they are also the most vulnerable to urban conditions, as well as wildlife incursions and ongoing, yet unpredictable, life-cycle costs."

The family's statement narrows the focus of its opposition to the memorial, planned for a four-acre site south of the Mall.

In previous statements and at a public hearing in March, the family not only opposed the metal scrims but also blasted Gehry's interpretation of Eisenhower's legacy and criticized the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which selected Gehry and unanimously supported his design, calling for "a top down review of its staff management practices."

Despite the family's continued opposition to what is the most distinctive and essential element of Gehry's design, a spokeswoman for the commission welcomed the statement as progress toward resolving the family's concerns. By narrowing the range of its criticism, which in the past has included references to Mao, Stalin and Hitler's death camps, the family has made it easier for the commission to respond directly to specific concerns.

"We are absolutely delighted that they are happy with the changes," spokeswoman Chris Kelley Cimko said.

As for the tapestries Cimko said they are undergoing rigorous testing.

But a statement released by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested that the family was gaining ground in persuading political leaders to delay the memorial's approval.

Cimko said that the commission doesn't believe the tapestries will be overwhelmingly expensive, but they will know more as the procurement process continues. They are also waiting for results from independent testing agencies that are exploring how the tapestries will weather and whether they will meet established longevity standards.