UTSOA Establishes New Initiative on Race, Gender, and the Built Environment

September 2, 2016
Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts join the school as the first emerging scholar fellows of its newly-established initiative on race, gender, and the American built environment.
Anna Brands and Andrea Roberts Appointed As First Fellows

The School of Architecture has appointed Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts as the first emerging scholar fellows of its newly-established initiative on race, gender, and the American built environment. An important step by the school to address one of the most pressing issues affecting 21st-century design and planning, this effort aims to facilitate diversity amongst design and planning professionals and students, and foster innovation in teaching and research on race, gender, and inequality in American cities. Partially funded by the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the program will ensure that the School of Architecture is on the leading edge of scholarship and practice regarding these important issues.

“The addition of Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts to our faculty underscores the School of Architecture’s commitment to addressing race and gender disparity within the design field in a new and meaningful way,” remarked Elizabeth Danze, interim dean for the School of Architecture. “We are grateful to the University of Texas’ Division of Diversity and Community Engagement for their support of this initiative, and look forward to furthering understanding of these important concerns through new courses, research, and scholarship.”

“The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement proudly supports the appointments of Professors Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts,” adds Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. “We applaud the work of the School of Architecture as they focus on the intersection of race, gender, and inequality in urban areas. There is great need for further study as the access and equity in our cities for those in the greatest need becomes more difficult by the day. We look forward to the community-based research that is to come.”  

Cities are complex built environments that integrate the physical, natural, and social worlds of human settlement.  A strength of urban living is diversity, which has many dimensions including race, gender, experience, and opportunity. The innovative power of cities, in the form of knowledge generation and the discovery of new solutions to address our most pressing needs and challenges, is rooted in the presence of and engagement between residents with diverse experiences and know-how.  At the same time, the legacy of slavery and a prolonged history of social segregation and economic and political disenfranchisement of African-Americans continues to undermine the power of urban diversity. Although much has been done to address the negative aspects of this legacy, much more needs to be done to make American cities more equitable, healthy, fair, safe and beautiful. With this initiative, UT establishes its commitment to furthering scholarship in this area, and to instilling in the next generation of designers and planners the importance and power of diversification.

During their one-year appointment, Brand and Roberts will engage in new research and teach classroom and studio courses with a focus on critical topics associated with race and gender in the built environment in U.S. cities.  They will engage with scholars across the UT campus, in programs and departments including American Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis.

Anna Livia Brand comes to the school from the University of New Orleans Department of Planning and Urban Studies. Her research focuses on the historical development of and contemporary planning and design challenges in black mecca neighborhoods in the American North and South, including Chicago’s Bronzeville, New York’s Harlem, Washington D.C.’s Shaw, New Orleans’s Treme, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn, and Houston's 3rd and 4th Wards. In her work, Brand investigates and compares how the redevelopment of the historic business and cultural corridors in these communities reflects ongoing racialization and changing commitments to equity and social justice for those who have traditionally suffered under urban revitalization policies. For the spring 2017 semester, she will lead a course on race and urban development that draws on urban planning, critical race theory, and black feminist theory and scholarship.

Andrea Roberts graduated with her doctorate from the UT School of Architecture’s Community & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation Programs. She is Founder of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project, a research & social justice initiative dedicated to recording settlement origin stories and African American contributions to planning history and practice. Her transdisciplinary, participatory action research focuses on cultural agency, identity, African diaspora theory, intangible heritage, and grassroots planning and development. While pursuing her doctoral degree, Andrea participated in the City of Austin’s Historical Wiki Project, a crowdsourcing architectural survey application. In 2012, she created and served as Project Manager for The Fifth Street Project, a community-based planning initiative and market study conducted under the auspices of the Center for Sustainable Development at UT. Her course this spring, Cultural Landscape & Ethnographic Methods, will investigate just and sustainable approaches to recognizing and protecting vernacular, gendered, and racialized places.