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Spatial Inequalities and Segregation in the Urban Landscape

Dumbarton Oaks
May 8  –  9, 2020
This symposium addresses the everyday spatial practices through which marginalized communities resisted oppressions and constructed alternative or counter narratives and spaces.

. . . within the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and cultural geography, there is an emerging body of theoretical, historical, and design research which recognizes the capacity of the built environment to serve as a repository of our collective and individual cultural history and memory. Yet contemporary methodologies of design often ignore the power of the landscape to evoke the history and memory of place, homogenizing the diverse cultural forces resident in the landscape, and thus reinforcing a peculiar sense of collective amnesia.

Craig Barton, Sites of Memory, xiv

The legacies of segregation, apartheid, and colonialism as they construct inequitable land use in cities are essential domains of study for landscape historians. Building on investigations of sites of memory, trauma, and racialized experience, this symposium invites scholars to engage with the urban landscape or environment through interrogating the means by which inequities, displacement, and spatial violence have affected the creation, development, and use of various spaces and sites in the urban public realm. We also seek scholarship into the everyday spatial practices through which marginalized communities resisted these oppressions and constructed alternative or counter narratives and spaces.

This project furthers the efforts of Dumbarton Oaks’ Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies over the past four years, including the symposia and publications Food and the City, River Cities/City Rivers and Landscapes of Pre-Industrial Urbanism as well as a recent graduate workshop focused on the legacies of slavery and segregation in the Virginia landscape. The “urban landscape” is understood here as the whole socially and physically produced urban fabric and geography of land-use distribution, alongside the more familiar public realm of parks, plazas, streets, alleys, and infrastructure.

Speakers will include:

  • Vyta Baselice (George Washington University), “Following the Concrete Supply Chain: Quarries, and Environmental Racism in the Lehigh Valley”
  • Sara Carr (Northeastern University), “Quarantine, Eradication, and Prescription: How Health Segregated the American Urban Landscape”
  • Heather Dorries (University of Toronto), “The Uses of Stories on Algonquin Territory”
  • Ife Salema Vanable (Columbia University/GSAPP), “….Up, Up To The Sky”
  • Andrew Friedman (Haverford College), “Decolonizing Desegregation: Built Environment Practices of Critical Black Sovereignty in Home Rule-Era Washington, DC”
  • Paige Glotzer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Developing Spaces of Exclusion”
  • Marta Gutman (CUNY), “Building Schools Where the Children Are”
  • Alison Hirsch (University of Southern California/School of Architecture), “Urban Markets/Rural Slums”
  • Zannah Matson (University of Toronto), “Landscape Hierarchies and Spatial Inequality in the Recursive Fold of Coloniality”
  • Brian McCammack (Lake Forest College), “Open Land for Whom? Racial Segregation In Chicago”
  • Sharone Tomer (Virginia Tech), “A Landscape of Dissonance: Erasing Blackness in Suburban Appalachia”
  • David Torres-Rouff (University of California, Merced) and Verenize Arceo (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Communal Gardens, Defensive Design, and Urban Apartheid in Chinatown: Merced, CA, 1870–1910”

Registration will open in March.

To be added to the mailing list to receive the symposium announcement, email Garden and Landscape Studies. Please include your name and affiliation.

Bliss Symposium Travel Award for currently enrolled students: deadline March 15, 2020

Programs in urban landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks are supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through its initiative in “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities,” intended to foster the joint contributions that the humanities and the design and planning disciplines may make to understanding the processes and effects of burgeoning urbanization.

Continuing Educations credits for Landscape Architects (LA CES) pending approval.


A Seattle real estate map from 1936