Dillon Center symposium focuses on historic Black communities

UTA conference examines preservation of cultural landscape in historic Black communities

Tuesday, Oct 18, 2022 • Herb Booth : Contact


A symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary of The University of Texas at Arlington’s David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture will focus on preserving the cultural landscape of historically Black communities in North Texas.

The symposium, titled “Don’t Sell the Land: Community, Housing, and Design Justice,” is scheduled for Oct. 20-22 at UTA’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA).

Kathryn Holliday, director of the center and professor of architecture history in CAPPA, said many historically Black communities are in danger of losing their identities or their entire histories because of continued urban development and gentrification.

“There is a movement to save cultural landscapes, too,” Holliday said. “Communities have much to gain when they preserve a physical, geographical place as well as a building or a house or landmark.”

Everett L. Fly, a renowned San Antonio-based landscape architect, will be the keynote speaker. Fly, who trained as both an architect and a landscape architect, has spent his career researching and advocating for the preservation of historic Black settlements. He received the 2021 Historic Preservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the 2014 National Humanities medal for preserving African American landmarks and places by President Barack Obama. In 2021, he was one of three recipients of the inaugural Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni Award.

“Everett Fly is a visionary in the cultural landscape preservation movement,” Holliday said.

Fly will be joined by a panel of scholars and practitioners from across the country who examine issues of land preservation, housing access and design justice. The symposium is made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as funds from the SOM Foundation.

Diane Jones Allen, UT Arlington’s program director in landscape architecture, said that “Everett Fly is an expert and has special skill in working with historic Black settlements.

“He investigates and understands what a community is feeling and that community’s ties to a place,” Jones Allen said. That connection is what makes Fly’s work so powerful.”

A CAPPA team has collaborated with historically Black communities to create maps that document Freedmen’s towns along the Trinity River and show 100 years of change in land use, industrial encroachment and housing loss. Freedman’s towns were municipalities or communities built by formerly enslaved people after emancipation.

A full schedule of events is available on the symposium website.

The events mark the 10th anniversary of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, which was founded to engage in public conversations about architecture and urbanism in North Texas. The center sponsors student and faculty research projects and organizes public events that bring together architects, historians, planners, policy-makers and everyday citizens to examine issues of critical importance to Dallas-Fort Worth.

David Dillon was an award-winning architecture critic for The Dallas Morning News from 1981-2006. After his untimely death in 2010, his wife, Sally, donated his papers to Special Collections at UT Arlington. The center expands David’s tradition of insightful writing about architecture and civic culture, and his role as an advocate for better design in everyday life.