After years of public controversy and debate, work is finally beginning Thursday on a massive memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower. A groundbreaking ceremony will mark the start of the project, which has been plagued for years by a bitter running fight over the memorial's design and aesthetics, the AP reports. Famed architect Frank Gehry, who designed the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, was commissioned to design the memorial. However, Gehry's original plan was strongly opposed by three of Eisenhower's grandchildren and the organizing commission was hit by multiple resignations. Gehry's vision would transform a four-acre space on Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.
Plans call for a series of columns and multiple statues depicting the 34th president and World War II military commander at various stages of his life and career. An enormous woven metal tapestry will depict the French beach at Normandy, where Eisenhower's troops launched the D-Day invasion. The Republican, who was elected president in 1952 and served two terms, died in 1969. Gehry's original plans called for a heavier emphasis on Eisenhower's childhood in Abilene, Kansas. When the memorial is completed, Eisenhower will join an elite club. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt also have prominent memorials in the nation's capital.