Contributed by:
Greg Brown
Hon. AIA Dallas

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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 the expression of a city’s history—culturally, naturally, and economically.

In that vein, cities experience turning points and defining moments in their buildings and their development. A fire in Chicago in 1871 gave that city’s builders a clean slate, and, as a result, they redefined not only their own community, but the way high-rise buildings would be constructed everywhere from that point on. Persistent earthquakes in San Francisco created the necessity for new architectural thinking and redevelopment.

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

There can be no question that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the streets of downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, was a defining moment in the history of the city. It drastically affected the world’s opinion 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 and soul-searching that, to some extent, remains as we approach the 50th anniversary of that tragic day. But was it a turning point in the city’s development and architecture? Did that soul-searching and self-examination extend to the way we looked at urban planning, design, and the buildings around us?

Within days of the assassination, even before the president’s funeral and burial, there was discussion of the appropriate way to memorialize him in the city where he was killed. For some, however, the debate was an opportunity to begin their strategy to restore the city’s image and self-esteem: distancing Dallas from the tragedy by seeming to pretend that it had ever happened.

To continue reading the entire article, click here.