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Exploring North Texas urbanism

Exploring North Texas urbanism

Kate Holliday, architecture assistant professor

When longtime Dallas Morning News writer David Dillon died in 2010, the Metroplex lost its only dedicated architecture critic. Now UT Arlington is helping fill that void by establishing the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture.

An initiative of the School of Architecture, the center supports faculty and student research on the region’s changing architecture and promotes discourse about urbanism in North Texas and beyond.

“Our goal is to serve as a catalyst for notable research and a depository for documents while also providing a forum for public speakers to address important issues of the day,” says Kate Holliday, director of the center and an architecture assistant professor.

The Dillon Center debuted last spring with its first David Dillon Symposium, held at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center. The event explored the changing role of modern architectural criticism and featured a prestigious panel including Paul Goldberger (Vanity Fair), Christopher Hawthorne (Los Angeles Times), and Alexandra Lange (Design Observer).

Key to the center’s founding was the donation of Dillon’s papers to the UT Arlington Library in 2011. He wrote more than 1,000 articles for The Dallas Morning News on the area’s buildings, urban spaces, and even highways, in addition to a number of books and several hundred freelance stories.

“The archive includes a huge range of material,” Dr. Holliday says. “It’s a treasure trove filled with reporter’s notebooks, research materials, published materials, edited manuscripts, interview recordings, correspondence with editors and readers, and more. The information it provides will be invaluable to students, scholars, and the community at large.”

Colleagues credit Dillon with helping shape civic debate on issues across North Texas, from underdevelopment in South Dallas to sprawl in the northern suburbs.

“David’s body of work over nearly three decades influenced urban design and architecture in Dallas and throughout Texas to an extraordinary degree,” says Robert Decherd, CEO of A. H. Belo Corp., parent company of The Dallas Morning News. “His expertise was recognized nationally.”

The center plans to put selections from Dillon’s archive online, including a list of all his reviews from the News. Additionally, UT Arlington is partnering with the news organization on a joint appointment of a School of Architecture faculty member who will serve as architecture critic for the News. The faculty member also will serve as a research fellow of the Dillon Center.