Racial segregation by design

Aerial view of a major highway intersection within an urban area. Racial segregation can be caused by design.Is urban planning racist?  We could also ask if urban planning is ableist or sexist. The answer to all three is probably, ‘yes’, but to what degree. Lisa Stafford argues strongly that planning is ableist, and transport planners have been considering gender for a while now. In a FastCo article, one architect believes there is racial segregation by design. 

Segregation by Design in the United States aims to document the destruction of communities through urban renewal and freeway construction.  Australians are familiar with this as ‘gentrification’ where certain groups of people are excluded and their social networks decimated. And it is likely to segregate other groups too.

Segregation by Design highlights 80 American cities destroyed by racist planning. It does this though annotated satellite imagery, historical ‘redlining’ maps, and archival photos. Redlining is a term for race-based exclusionary tactics in real estate in the US. 

The title of the FastCo article is, Segregation by Design: How one architect is vizualising the legacy of America’s racist urbanism. The case studies usefully illustrate the arguments and there are links to other references. 

“Segregation By Design joins the conversation at a time of unprecedented spending on American infrastructure. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 unlocks over $1 trillion to remake cities with the promise of a better future. While more money is not the only answer to the mechanisms of oppressive public planning, it’s a promising start. For Susaneck and his passion project, understanding urban planning’s racist past is the key to constructing more equitable cities in the future—filled with accessible public transit, pedestrian-friendly roads, and ample public space for all.”


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