Prompted by a need to mend a badly neglected urban node at the intersection of Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass, and restore a sense of reverence for the tragic and multifaceted historic layers at the site of the JFK Assassination, the Dealey Plaza Reinvention was set in motion.
The resulting district study incorporates beautiful site choreography to craft an experience that is honorific, connecting some of the most significant moments in American History in a way that brings about reflection. Thoughtful interlacing of places for observance included the JFK assassination site (presently marked by white chalk X marks on the pavement of an active roadway), a place where three slaves were lynched at Martyr’s Park, a historic jail (readapted as a visitor center), and Trinity River and Park, vital landscapes and waterways in the context of urban life.
The Reinvention of Dealey Plaza was conceptualized with the human experience motivating each design move. Better pedestrian facilities, tree lined boulevards, linear forests around a highway interchange, set in a greener lusher context to create a much more civil experience for people, were all considerations present through the careful visioning of the site:
Threading of a multi-use trail on the south side of Commerce Street that extends from the park into downtown to create a much more humane and civil experience.
Transformation of Houston Street into a flexible community space to be occasionally shut down for festivals and celebrations that honor the present, living history of Dallas.
Illumination of the Triple Overpass underside with soft white and blue lights with a bit of movement, creating safe passage and alluding to the presence of the Trinity River, which had a significant role in the founding of the city right at this location.
Street closure to auto traffic at the site of the JFK Assassination to recognize the sacred importance of what happened there, and the creation of two water markers raising gently at the points of bullet impact, with water subtly flowing over into the ground – a shedding of tears representing hope and remembrance.
Design of a memorial overlook and plaza amphitheater to create a proper space for gathering, reflection, education, and interaction. The overlook would rise up over the railroad tracks and offer an opportunity for people to look back on Dealey Plaza, to see the bullet markers, and the Sixth Floor Museum and Book Depository, within a contemporary context of Downtown Dallas.
Trees planted at angles atop the overlook structure to acknowledge the aberrance of activities in this place, but also to function as an example of our ability to adapt and thrive in the current environment, as they self correct and grow upwards towards the light. Species of trees selected represent both JFK’s hometown in Massachusetts (River Birch) as well as the current place in Texas (Cedar Elm).
Project catalyst, Mark Lamster of the Dallas Morning News, states, “These defining spaces are essential both to the life of the city and to the nation at large, but in their current state are a civic embarrassment. At the time of their introduction, in 1936, they formed a celebratory and gracious gateway into a city on the rise. Today, however, they are something quite different: perilous to navigate, marked by tawdry vandalism, and utterly inadequate to both their historical gravity and to the functional demands of the city. It is a deplorable state of affairs, but also a great opportunity; a chance to transform this site into a space of civic memory and understanding that embraces the past and points to the future.”
The reinvention of Dealey Plaza
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Project Commissioned by: Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News
Image Credits: Design Team