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The sustainable urban village on the highway to nowhere

The Sustainable Urban Village on the Highway  to Nowhere: A Project by Morgan State University’s Design Studio 3

January 31, 2023 @ 11:30 am 1:00 pm EST

In support of the “Reconnect Communities” program initiated by the City of Baltimore and supported by the Biden Administration, Morgan State University students have been rethinking the Highway to Nowhere (H2NOW): a six-lane stretch of a highway that was never completed even after it displaced the predominantly Black residents of West Baltimore.

Funding from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act is now being directed to removing the detritus of the highway and rebuilding community in the region. Architecture students from Morgan State University conducted a project in which they were asked to provide a new, positive perspective on this vast and abused area of Baltimore by providing scenarios of sustainability. This event will showcase three exceptional student proposals and an inside look at the students’ design process along with comments from Baltimore City Planners Martin French and Renata Southard.

It will also attempt to draw conclusions: in a sincere effort to make this urban wasteland a better place and remedy the damage that has been done, students of Morgan State University have drawn upon a pedagogy of critical awareness to building with and for communities. It is our hope that the Biden administration will draw on these ideas to address the racialisation of America’s urban geographies.

* This event will be held virtually on the EDC platform. To attend, please join our collective by creating an account. Make sure to sign in to your account, and click on the “Join Here” button below.

About the speakers

Martin French is a City Planner in the Land Use and Urban Design Division of the Baltimore City Planning Department. Before joining Planning, Martin worked for several decades in the subsidized housing field for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.  His career started with a BA in Geography from Johns Hopkins University, and he has been a 50-year resident of the Baltimore area (20 of them in the City).

Renata Southard is a Design Planner in the Land Use and Urban Design division. Prior to joining the Department of Planning, Ren spent more than a decade in the private sector as a designer and project manager, working on adaptive reuse, multi-family, mixed-use and master planning projects. In her current role, Ren splits her time between Design Review and special projects, such as visioning for the Impact Investment Areas, coordinating across agencies, and providing technical design support. 

Cristina Cassandra Murphy co-founded XCOOP (2009), a think tank that through its flexible and permeable approach, analyzes contemporary living and provides creative solutions within a wide range of disciplines. She is an Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. Also, she has been Lecturer at the University of Arizona, Visiting Fellow at the Architecture School at Taliesin and Taliesin West, guest professor at the University of Central America of San Salvador (El Salvador), University of Mumbai, Academy of Architecture, also in Mumbai, UNICA of Cagliari (Italy), at the TUDelft and Guest Critic at the MIARD, Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam.

Samia Rab Kirchner is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Urban Design and Interim Chair of the Undergraduate Design Department at Morgan State University in Baltimore City. She has taught at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Kirchner’s research and practice focus on the (trans)formative role of water in City Design, Urban Regeneration and Redevelopment.

Uyiosa Aimufua is a 1st-year student at Morgan State University, studying Architecture in the 3+2 program. Some of her interests include horror movies and Legos/Lego building because they offer an amazing buildable collection!

Austin Tucker is a 2nd year Master of Architecture Student interested in spaces for retreat and reflection within the complexities of the urban environment. He comes from Charleston, SC and completed a degree in packaging design at Clemson University. In addition to his work at Morgan State, he also holds a full-time position planning spaces for wellness at CRGA Design in Baltimore.

Tyriq Charleus is a Historic Preservation Planner for Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. Tyriq earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Architecture & Environmental Design from Morgan State University. Originally from the Washington DC area, Tyriq loves working in the Historic Preservation field because of all the uncovered knowledge that can be discovered daily. He fell in love with Baltimore City as he matriculated through Morgan State University and wanted to become an agent of change for communities. It is a goal for Tyriq to be a steward of knowledge for generations to come.


11.30 am IntroductionCristina Murphy
11.35 amAbout the Highway to NowhereMartin French
12.00 pmDiscussion with Martin FrenchOpen
12.10 pmProject Presentation: Urban ValleyAustin Tucker
12.20 pm Project Presentation: The Red CorridorUyiosa Aimufua
12.30 pm Project Presentation: The One WayTyriq Charleus
12.40 pm ConclusionsRenata Southard
and Samia Kitchner


    1. Hi Janet, How are you? I would argue that the City is representing the community. In their Grant procedure, they demonstrated reserving ample space for the residents and communities’ voices. Please note that on DOT’s “West Baltimore United – A Reconnecting Communities Planning Study” webpage this is stated “The planning study will also establish a robust public engagement process to refine the overall vision and goals and establish performance measures for selecting a preferred concept that can be advanced into design and construction.” Communities are involved in the process. I defer it to the communities to what extent this is happening…. . At Morgan State, we studied the City’s guidelines and facilitated the students to approach the study of a difficult urban site to provide a vision. This means that for the students the exercise was purely academic. For this reason, Morgan did not approach the communities for this project. Nonetheless, the students were made aware of the situation and were asked to conceive ideas that were positioning the human being at the center of their designs. I hope to see you on Tuesday!

  1. Cristina
    Admittedly the students project did not involve or consider the community’s voice. Nonetheless, you want President Biden to draw upon the project’s concepts to address racialization of America’s urban geographies. The greatest atrocity for the Highway to Nowhere was the muting and extermination of the community. We do not want history to repeat itself. I want to listen to the presentation on Tuesday and I am hoping my work schedule affords me this opportunity.