Tributes to architect who modernised Dallas following JFK murder


Architect Pat Spillman, who was a major player in redesigning the US city of Dallas following the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy, has died aged 91.

“The city is our greatest material accomplishment. There is no reason why it should be disorganised, inefficient, unpleasant or ugly. It should, indeed, be our greatest work of art.”

Spillman wrote those words in 1966; they open the “Design of the City” chapter of Goals for Dallas, the influential planning document orchestrated by then-Mayor Erik Jonsson in response to the killing.


The architect mapped out a progressive vision for Dallas, including the transformation of Fair Park into a year-round venue and a reimagining of the Trinity River as a great public amenity.

“Its potential for civic beauty needs to be exploited by design,” he wrote. “Only by seeing how it might be can its potential for urban beauty be realised.”

A World War II combat veteran who flew 30 missions as a B17 bombardier Spillman’s professional career began in the Chicago office of modernist Harry Weese. He returned to Dallas in 1959, and three years later teamed up with his friend Herschel Fisher to form Fisher and Spillman, later known as F&S.

But colleagues say his most lasting mark on the city came as a mentor to generations of architects who turned to him for professional advice.

“Pat was always generous with his time with anybody, particularly as he got toward the end of his practice,” said Vel Hawes, a friend and architect.

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