Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Published in: 111th ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings.


Reparations are one crucial means of acknowledging the irreparable harm done to BIPOC populations since the colonization of this country. Providence Rhode Island is one of several cities that have begun the difficult process of confronting the impacts of spatial injustice. By focusing on the Urban Renewal programs of the 50’s and 60’s, reparations programs offer an opportunity to examine the role of the planning and architecture professions in blindly perpetuating the racist policies that, coupled with discriminatory real estate and lending practices, are responsible for our current landscape of inequality. Without a clearer accounting for the lasting impacts of racism, stark disparities in outcomes will only persist. This realization, and the murder of George Floyd, prompted Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to commit to a comprehensive Truth Telling and Reconciliation process in July of 2020 that led to the establishment of a Municipal Reparations Commission the following year.1 Working alongside this process, our urban design studio investigated two sites of past trauma. Students were asked to confront one transgressive act with another by intervening in the work of an acclaimed architect culpable in the erasure of Providence’s largest Black neighborhood. Our second site called for mending the embattled community that became home to those who were displaced. The students had access to a wide range of historical and contemporary narratives from the truth telling and reconciliation process and had regular engagement with leaders of this process.2 Our two sites represent related, but starkly different, conditions that allowed us to examine a range of social and spatial injustices and expose students to the various ways that BIPOC communities continue to be prevented from participating in the wealth and community building opportunities that are available to white families. By using design as research, we were also able to document what was lost and explore place-based strategies of repair and community-centered renewal to help shape the form of the remedies sought by the Reparations Commission.

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Architecture Commons