Saturday, August 29, 2015

Still Life With Robin: IKE not IAD

 Photo by JetBlastBWI via Wikimedia Commons [Public Doman]
by Peggy Robin

In Monday’s Washington Post there was a timely proposal from Former Maryland congressman Mike Barnes for a brilliant way to honor our 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower without spending $142 million to build the committee-approved design by Frank Gehry – you know, the one the Eisenhower family thoroughly loathes and has been trying to defeat for years on end. (Lots of design critics hate it, too, and public comments tend heavily toward the negative; the strongest push to build it has come from World War II veterans, led by Bob Dole, who make it clear they just want to see something done to honor Eisenhower –anything, even if the design leaves much to be desired – as long as it can be accomplished before their generation is all gone -- see

While Mike Barnes argues that the renaming of Dulles Airport for Eisenhower neatly disposes of the problem of the unloved Frank Gehry memorial, I support the idea for an entirely different and utterly mundane reason -- nothing to do with aesthetics, or memorial design principles, or good urban architecture and landscaping. I love it because it finally and permanently solves that stupid Dulles/Dallas confusion, a problem that has for so long plagued people with poor hearing, or bad telephone connections, or who speak English as a second language, or who scribble illegibly as they take down information in a rush, and end up with the wrong booking, shipment, or pickup location. Now it’s true that this is a problem usually caught and corrected well before the poor soul steps onto the wrong plane, or the package gets shipped to the wrong part of the country, or the national car service has been dispatched to the wrong airport. But just because this particular comedy of errors only rarely will play out to its most careless conclusion is no reason to keep setting up the premise. Especially when it could be fixed by this simple name change. Barnes says we should also change the airport code from IAD to IKE, and that will make things even clearer. (For an example of the Dulles/Dallas mixup in action, see

In the past, according to former Congressman Barnes, it’s been surviving members of the Dulles family who have used their political clout to block this useful change. But now I’m wondering if the time may finally have arrived when it is possible to build the bipartisan political momentum needed for the effort to succeed. This could be something that can unite all those who want to honor Eisenhower in a real, concrete way, including the veterans who don’t want to wait any longer to do it. What better monument than the powerful, uplifting, soaring and graceful swoop of Eero Saarinen’s airport terminal roof?


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv  and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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