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New Podcast: Mark Lamster Argues for Redesigning Dealey Plaza

The paper’s architecture critic has an idea to reshape Dealey Plaza, providing for better connectivity and pedestrian infrastructure while memorializing the tragedies that happened there.
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(Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News, courtesy Mark Lamster)

Last month, Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster set about solving what he calls “one of the city’s most profound urban failings.” Dealey Plaza, perhaps the most frequented tourist destination in Dallas, “is a deplorable state of affairs,” a tangle of wide access roads that ferry vehicles onto Interstates 30 and 35 and to points west while hiding and minimizing the tragedies it should seek to memorialize.

It fails its responsibility for the future, as this will be the front door to an eventual park along the Trinity River levees. It fails its present, too, by putting pedestrians in danger and failing to appropriately recognize the assassination of President John F. Kennedy beyond crudely drawn white Xs that pop up along Elm Street. (Today is the 59th anniversary of Kennedy’s murder.)

Hidden behind concrete is Martyr’s Park, which Lamster notes is difficult to access and fails to be an appropriate home for a forthcoming $100,000 memorial to victims of racist violence. Jerry Hawkins, the executive director of the nonprofit Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation has a strong quote for why this is a problem: “If Martyr’s Park is a reflection of the city’s will to address its past wrongs, then the mirror is broken.”

It’s a lot to unpack, so we invited Lamster to the Old Monk to discuss the work. The News commissioned a team of designers to rethink the space, including Stoss Landscape Urbanism’s Chris Reed and Monica Ponce de Leon of MPdL Studio in New Jersey.

The News presents this speculative proposal — a big idea, complete with renderings and architectural drawings — to show how these spaces could be transformed; to suggest what is possible if the city can summon its collective will,” Lamster writes.

The News held a discussion with the designers involved last week. Michael Granberry’s coverage of the event includes statements of support from Mayor Eric Johnson and Park Board Chair Arun Agarwal. Some of the hundred or so attendees had their own concerns, largely with the decision to shut down Elm. It sets the table for the sort of discussions that will need to happen before this becomes reality.

Other quick takes: Lamster says depressing I-345 is a “half-measure” and “generally half measures don’t work.” Elm Street near Dealey Plaza needs to be closed to vehicles because it’s a “dangerous traffic disaster waiting to happen.” As for Dallas: “I think the city is changing, but it’s not changing fast enough.”

Listen after the jump.


Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…

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