John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza
The John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza was dedicated June 24, 1970. In the years since, it has become an integral part of the city’s urban landscape and cultural heritage. It is located one block east of Dealey Plaza, between Main and Commerce streets, on land donated by Dallas County.
Renowned American architect Philip Johnson’s design is a cenotaph, or “open tomb,” that symbolizes the freedom of President Kennedy’s spirit. The memorial, a square, roofless room, 30 feet high and 50 by 50 feet wide, sits in the middle of the block with narrow openings facing north and south. The walls consist of 72 white pre-cast concrete columns, most of which seem to float with no visible support 29 inches above the ground.
Eight columns extend to the ground, acting as legs that seem to hold up the monument. Each column ends in a light fixture. At night, the lights create the illusion that the light itself supports the structure. These vertical elements, rigorously separated from each other and individually poured, seem held together by an unseen, invisible force. The architect once called it a “magnetic force” and suggested a connection to the charisma of the living John F. Kennedy.
While aesthetically simple, the intent of the Kennedy Memorial was often misunderstood. A thoughtful piece of art, originally it had no interpretive features. The space was intended for reflection and remembrance. Yet, as more visitors came to Kennedy Memorial Plaza and to nearby Dealey Plaza, it became clear that an exhibit was needed to explore the topic of the Kennedy assassination. Upon that realization, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza had its beginnings.