David Dillon’s ‘Why Is Dallas Architecture So Bad?’ Still Resonates Today

Imagine the scene. It’s 1980 and D Magazine’s founder and owner, Wick Allison, has just been part of a discussion at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture (another organization he helped found). A visitor to the city asked a question about Dallas’ lackluster architecture, suggesting the city needs a critical voice that developers can hold accountable. Allison, back in the office, questions his employees. Two editors are busy working on the next issue. He finds a third, a young associate editor named David Dillon, who appears to be unprepared for the way he is filling his time.

“David!” Allison yells. “I want you to write a story about why the architecture in Dallas is so bad.”

The open city: David Dillon on Texas Architecture
Edited by Kathryn E. Holliday
University of Texas Press
May 2019

Shoot the moon
By James Donovan
Little, Brown and Company
March 2019

This marked the beginning of the career of one of the best (and one of the few) full-time architecture critics in America. The following year, the Dallas Morning News stole Dillon from D Magazine. He worked for the newspaper until 2006 and contributed until his death in 2010.

This collection of his writing, which begins with his 1980 D Magazine cover story, is entitled “Why Is Dallas Architecture So Bad?” shows that the city is still grappling with some of the same problems that Dillon identified almost 40 years ago. Many of the pieces will resonate across the country, particularly in the postwar cities of the Sun Belt, but northern Texas is fortunate to have Dillon’s observations included in this resonance band (edited by Kathryn Holliday, founding director of UTA’s David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture) . It’s built to last.

Blast off

James Donovan is known to some extent as a literary agent in Dallas. He is known as an author to an even smaller extent, most recently in books about the Alamo and George Armstrong Custer. And here he comes with a book about the Apollo space program, terrain not exactly unploughed. No matter. This is a well-researched, well-told story about a time when America was truly great again. Whether you’ve been alive to witness the space race or are just getting curious, this book will scratch the itch that only weightlessness heroism can.

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