Panel: 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

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 showcases 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 also attempts 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.

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.

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