EFFECTIVE URBANISM

ISSUE 6

March 2023

Richmond’s African American Burial Ground Memorial and lnterstate’s 1-95 Corridor Park: On Memory, Infrastructure and Community Empowerment”

Eleni Stefania is a New York-based Architect and Urban Designer (M Sc in Architecture & Urban Design/Columbia GSAPP’20), focused on the interactions between water bodies and urbanism as well as the regeneration of de-industrialized landscapes through living infrastructure. A people-first approach drives her work, consonant with the deep context of a place, its scale, its materiality, its broader environmental-socio political, and economic agendas, and flexible to adapt to long-term future growth.

This research project explores the planned and unplanned impacts of racially insensitive highway expansion policies, community resistance to those policies, and remedial actions taken to make and mend Richmond’s African American Burial Ground Memorial and Corridor Park. Federal highway expansion projects of the mid-20th century ripped through minority and immigrant communities across the country.

In Richmond (Virginia), Interstate Highway 95’s planning resulted in six miles of the neighborhood being demolished. Today, the Interstate Highway 95’s planned expansion is ultimately halted by multi-city com-munity action to reverse the chronic highway segregation that the neighborhood faced and to reclaim the cultural relic (Richmond’s African American Burial Ground) that is projected to be cemented beneath the lnterstate’s planned expansion.

By reclaiming this segregated cultural relic and stitching it back into the neighborhood while advocating for a broader remedial socio-economic and environmental intervention through a connected urban infra-structural network of community gardens, playgrounds, bike paths, subway lines, and new job-creating incubators, the cultural legacy of the neighborhood is celebrated while the socio-economic and environmental livelihoods and well-being of the community are being restored.

The project was partially developed as part of Columbia University’s M Sc in Architecture and Urban Design curriculum (Urban Design Seminar: Cotton Kingdom, now/Spring 2020) under the supervision of the Adjunct Assistant Professor Sara Zewde)

 

Image & Research Credits: Eleni Stefania Kalapoda (The project was partially developed as part of Columbia University’s M Sc in Architecture and Urban
Design curriculum (Urban Design Seminar: Cotton Kingdom, now/Spring 2020) under the supervision of the Adjunct Assistant Professor Sara Zewde)

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