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Redline in Baltimore

By Cristina Murphy

Baltimore, MD (May 10, 2019) – Who will Baltimore serve in 15 years? Overall, cities are struggling between accommodating new investments and avoiding displacement. Can spatial equity be addressed through market-based solutions or are community land trusts the only viable solution? Can designers provide innovative and creative ideas to address equity in the built environment?

On April 18, I organized a symposium at SA+P () at Morgan State University in Baltimore that explored how redlining and gentrification have shaped and are still influencing Baltimore neighborhoods. This event was part of ARC540-Studio 4, a Morgan State University School of Architecture + Planning graduate studio investigating the meaning of a just city applied to Baltimore and Rotterdam. This spring 2019 design studio was curated in collaboration with the Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst (RAvB), a Rotterdam based Design Academy with a curriculum is similar to what offered at Morgan. It was crucial to understand the legacy of the transformation of place, race, and class in Baltimore, and examine how redlining and other policies, practices, and disinvestments have created systemic disparities that not only perpetuate our most pressing social challenges, but impede democracy.

In order to unfold this rather complex matter, the symposium was laid out in five parts, all of which worked in conjunction to provide a context for the history and legacy of redlining:


Antero Pietila, author, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City, revealed the secret of American Cities’ urban planning structures and how persisting discrimination (racial and financial) has been a determining factor of how our cities are designed even today.

Wouter Veldhuis presented the concept of just cities and introduced case studies in the Netherlands. Here, the idea is to improve the life of the poor despite the presence of multi-national corporations attempting to flatten and globalize the socialist attitude of the country.

April de Simone, co-founder Designing the WE, based in NYC, narrated true stories of segregation, emphasizing how redlining is a structural tool that perpetuates institutionalized racism in laws and city services. How can city improvements happen when authorities allow for intentional community and neighborhood decay?

Panel Discussion:

This was an animated conversation among lecturers and audience on how redlining had, and still is, guiding American cities. Panelists included Antero Pietila, April de Simone, Wouter Veldhuis, Seema Iyer (Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at JFI), Lori Rubeling (Stevenson University), Zevi Thomas, Assoc. AIA (AIA Baltimore), Nneka Namdi (Fight Blight Bmore), Colman Jordan (Morgan State University), and Jerome Gray, AIA (jerome c gray architect llc).

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