Old wounds reopened by JFK 'Lego' memorial

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A furious debate has erupted in Dallas after a suggestion that the only memorial in the city commemorating John F. Kennedy should be torn down. His assassination in 1963 still evokes deep feelings of guilt.

Despite the fact that the monument — a stark, empty, open-air concrete box — is widely considered a monstrosity, many people are afraid that public criticism would offend the memory of a man whose murder brought so much unwanted attention to the city.

But this month the ice was broken when an editorial in The Dallas Morning Newsasked whether it was time to replace the memorial with one “more beautiful, alive and altogether worthy of the slain President”.

It followed comments by the architect Witold Rybczynski, who compared the memorial’s walls to “mammoth Lego blocks”, adding: “It is all poorly done. Kennedy deserved better than this.” One factor that has suppressed criticism is that the memorial, 200 yards from where Kennedy was shot, was designed by Philip Johnson, a renowned architect who was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy, the P resident’s widow.

But very few tourists visit the memorial. Instead, they flock to Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll, where the only acknowledgement that the assassination took place there is a barely visible X on the road. The editorial has been hailed as courageous by many, outrageous by others. Jacquielynn Floyd, a columnist, wrote: “Dallas’s memorial to the President who died in our city is cold, forbidding and not even very good art.” Darwin Payne, an historian, said: “There was a terrible feeling of guilt that lasted a long time. Removing the memorial would reopen all the old wounds.”

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