Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Chicago. Credit: Maremagnum / Getty Images
Last year, many American cities were shut down for long periods during the coronavirus pandemic. They were also the backdrop for widespread demonstrations against racial injustice, in response to the death of George Floyd. As the Biden administration now plots out a road to recovery, with a , Toni Griffin’s work designing cities and spaces focused on equity and inclusion could be more relevant than ever.
Griffin, the founder of, professor in Practice of Urban Planning and the director of at , explains the long and of discrimination in urban planning and architecture in America and what it will take to overcome it.
- Designers and urban planners who want to revitalize American cities, need to understand the ways in which urban areas have been shaped by , dating back to the early decades of the 20th century, says Griffin. There were practices designed to intentionally “extract, exclude, discriminate and devalue spaces where Black people” lived, including , and .
- Design can be a tool to repair injustice. And part of that process, which began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is dismantling policies and practices that have marginalized African Americans and led to in Black neighborhoods, according to Griffin. She says some “ ” projects have perpetuated cycles of poverty and violence, and calls this “developmental mutilation.”
- One of Griffin’s favorite public spaces is , downtown Chicago. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, Griffin says the fountain brings people together in a way that doesn’t typically happen in Chicago, which she describes as a deeply segregated city. Two large digital towers display images of the faces of everyday Chicagoans, while, during warmer months of the year, children from all over the city play together in a shallow reflecting pool at the fountain.
- Want to learn more about what just cities could look like and some to create them? Check out: .
- Here are some , about the devaluation of Black homes and businesses, and an earlier interview we aired with Brookings’ senior fellow, , on how to build an .
- During the , African Americans from the rural South flocked to cities in the North and West, including Griffin’s home city of Chicago. Find out why Black families have been in droves, more recently, and why some people think reverse migration to the South .