The Kennedy Assassination and Dallas Architecture

The Kennedy Assassination and Dallas Architecture

This week, we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the streets of our city.  Recently, DCFA Program Director Greg Brown wrote an article for Columns magazine on the effects the assasination had on the architecture and development of Dallas.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article.

Architecture does not exist in a vacuum. It is theexpression of a city’s history—culturally, naturally, and economically.

In that vein, cities experience turning points and definingmoments in their buildings and their development. A fire in Chicago in 1871gave that city’s builders a clean slate, and, as a result, they redefined notonly their own community, but the way high-rise buildings would be constructedeverywhere from that point on. Persistent earthquakes in San Francisco createdthe necessity for new architectural thinking and redevelopment.

Trigger points aren’t just natural disasters: One couldargue that the economic collapse of the late 1980s served as a defining momentin downtown architecture, especially in Texas and specifically in our own Dallas—theskyline stood frozen for nearly two decades as the economy recovered and theglut of office space was filled.

There can be no question that the assassination of PresidentJohn F. Kennedy on the streets of downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, was adefining moment in the history of the city. It drastically affected the world’sopinion of our community.

Perhaps even more importantly, it rocked its own citizens’self-image to their very core and created a collective sense of guilt andsoul-searching that, to some extent, remains as we approach the 50thanniversary of that tragic day. But was it a turning point in the city’sdevelopment and architecture? Did that soul-searching and self-examinationextend to the way we looked at urban planning, design, and the buildings aroundus?

Within days of the assassination, even before the president’sfuneral and burial, there was discussion of the appropriate way to memorialize himin the city where he was killed. For some, however, the debate was anopportunity to begin their strategy to restore the city’s image andself-esteem: distancing Dallas from the tragedy by seeming to pretend that ithad ever happened.

To continue reading the entire article, click here.

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