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Francisco Ruiz responds

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Ruiz’s entry.

In response to my post this morning critiquing the top six winners of the Eisenhower memorial competition, architect Francisco Ruiz sent me this email describing his proposal:

“I read with interest your comments on the ‘top six’ entries in the National Civic Art Counterproposals Eisenhower Memorial Competition. You are quite right in your observation that our submittal ‘is by far the most unique’ of the submittals. It is in fact the only one carefully and professionally related to the site and indeed to the overall geometry (both literal and as perceived historically in the legacy of the L’Enfant Plan). In that regard, I will provide a proper description of the urbanistic intentions / interventions employed in our Proposal:”

“The site is organized about two important Public Spaces, intended to be added to the roster of public spaced in Washington DC. “

“The first is, of course, the appropriately ‘formal’ and dignified ‘Eisenhower Plaza’, roughly circular in form (although a more accurate formal description would be ‘square in form’ with articulating exedras, intended to render it perceivably ‘circular’) is placed at the hitherto quite awkward confluence of the great Independence Avenue and the Maryland Street Axis, which of course bisects the overall site diagonally.”

“The carefully designed geometry of this Public Space gracefully resolves the crossing of these two Avenues, and creates a proper forum around which the Memorial organizes. Eisenhower Plaza is not designed as a ‘developer-ry’ ‘site contained feature’, rather on the model of Gabriel’s Place de la Concorde in Paris, it utilizes marble exedas / seats, a flagpole, sculpture and other similar features to extend its reach out to and to become an organic part of the City fabric, in the manner and language of the L’Enfant Plan. In so doing, Eisenhower Plaza becomes a Public space through which flow both Independence Avenue, and 4th Street. Now you may not be aware of this, as only the most knowledgeable and observant of the formal structure of the Capital City might be aware of this, but 4th Street constitutes an important de-facto ‘cross axis’ (i.e. an axis, as that of 16th Street, running perpendicularly to that of the Mall) which passes through Judiciary Square and to be terminated at the north by the old ‘Pensions Building’ (now the National Building Museum). It is on this axis, at the center line of the 4th Street right-of-way, that the part of the Memorial dedicated to the General Eisenhower is placed. This is a tall column over 70 feet in height, which will function not only as an a visual terminus to the 4th Street Axis, but as a ‘signal’ to visitors on the Mall, and in the vicinity of the National Gallery of the Memorial.”

“The second Public Space designed for the site is ‘Maryland Square’. In contrast to Eisenhower Plaza, which is designed for dignified contemplation and reflection, Maryland Square is designed as a compliment, casual and hospitable in nature, defined by appropriately scaled mixed use (office and residential) buildings and served at its edges by cafes, and small scaled-retail. Maryland Square is less ‘public’, more inward turning, and more a part of the ‘neighbourhood’ urban fabric, the ‘poche’, as it were (to use a Beaux Arts Planning term) existing to anchor, defer to and define Public Spaces of a higher order (in this case Eisenhower Plaza).”

“It has to be noted by anyone contemplating a plan for this site and for the Memorial, that our Proposal devotes approximately one third of the available (quite large) one block parcel to the Memorial itself. This is more than suffucient, and actually results in a work of superior, more human, less ’empty’ scale.”

“In so doing, it also identifies the bulk of the parcel, a good two thirds of it, for private sector development, as described. This will permit the sale or lease of quite valuable Downtown Washington real estate for prescribed and carefully controlled development, the proceeds of which intended to defray in part, if not in whole, the costs of realizing the Memorial itself. This is sort of intelligence is not to be overlooked at any time, but especially at a challenging time of ongoing Budget Austerity.”

“The Memorial itself, has been quite carefully designed to take the form of Classical Pavillions, Seats, Sculpture, Monumental Column all quite carefully arranged in a dynamic symmetry around the perimeter of the carefully composed Eisenhower Plaza. This is not the empty, ‘stillborn’ malaprop, formulaic, self absorbed, hermetic and disturbingly arbitrary planning to lamentably be observed in all other proposals currently on the table (from Mr.Gehry’s on through the rest of my fellow Competition Awardees). Our Proposal takes its character and its expression from the essential character of the Capital City, from a Classicism, a Greek Revival, characteristic of the very roots and essence of Washington DC, a Classicism uniquely simple, democratic, and American — indeed the very characteristics Mr. Eisenhower would have admired. “

“As to what represents appropriate expression for a Memorial to this great General, Civic Leader, and President of our Republic, as well as author, along with General / President Washington of one of the two most important Farewell Addresses ever bestowed to our Nation, one might caution against such ‘tin pan alley’ tropes as any exclusively military representation, or any ‘schmaltzy’ (too casual, too gestural, patently ‘unheroic’) representations that the age of television might impose but which result in an erosion of Classical dignity.”

June 10th, 2011 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, urbandesign



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