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No Washington memorial will please everyone, but monuments caused particular unhappiness in 2011. A Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial by Frank Gehry ran into trouble when the prolific starchitect’s plans for massive mesh screens depicting that presiden’t rural childhood met resistance from planning bureaucrats and Eisenhower’s descendants alike, who wanted more focus on Ike’s military heroics. An advocacy group is sponsoring a design competition for alternatives, while Gehry’s gone back to the drafting table.
In the case of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Tidal Basin, unveiled to great fanfare this fall, it’s too late for a reboot. Though there’s been grumbling over the design for years, the sight of Dr. King in the flesh, so to speak, sparked a new barrage of boos, with the New York Times calling it “baffling” and “authoritarian.” And that was before the Washington Post noticed that statue actually misquoted one of King’s famous speeches. In a city where memorial-viewing is a major piece of the economy, this stings.