The framing of race and space as a historically intertwined relationship with overlapping characteristics that occur in simultaneous ways allows me to appropriately frame my own research on spatial segregation in the context of Birmingham. Through site visits and oral interviews, I begin to concretize my understanding of these abstract concepts.

When most people think of Birmingham, Alabama, they usually associate the city with the struggle for Civil Rights, imagining gushing fire hoses and teeth-bearing dogs. They may think of a chapter closed, an event unique to this location. The struggle for Civil Rights was a fight over space, or who controlled the land, with the White community fighting to limit where and under what circumstances members of the Black community could live, however, the fight for Civil Rights is not over. It never ended.

This thesis melds contemporary research on race and space with the discipline of landscape architecture while evaluating relevant literature as a means of understanding, situating, and designing for Birmingham, Alabama’s racialized landscape. Beginning with an exploration into foundational spatial theories, I shed light on the extent to which these theories can be applied and used to understand the relationship between racial dynamics and the city’s urban fabric of past and present. This research argues that the spatial legacy of Birmingham’s built environment continues to cement patterns of segregation and inequality while also providing a framework to assess the segregating characteristics of other American cities.

Rachel Spraos, MLA ’21


LA 8900 Master’s Thesis

Jennifer Birkeland, Faculty Advisor


Spring 2021