Over the course of September 2020, Rochester, New York erupted in protests over the killing of Daniel Prude by Rochester Police Department officers. The details of Prude’s death, suppressed by Mayor Lovely Warren’s administration for almost six months, triggered a reckoning with the gap between the images of the future promised by generations of politicians, elites, and boosters and the material realities experienced by the city’s Black residents.

This thesis examines how designers enable abuses by municipal leaders in the images they make, using the northern leg of the Inner Loop highway as a site to reassemble the city’s traumatized matter. Rather than presenting a "better" future or suggesting that there exists some unexplored solution attainable through design thinking, this thesis seeks to make visible the pent-up rage and sorrow of the city, giving physical form to the social movements that are denied a material presence.

Samuel Coons, MLA/MRP ’21


LA 8900 Master’s Thesis

Jamie Vanucchi, Faculty Advisor


Spring 2021

A Tale of Two Cities

Today, Rochester is divided along stark racial and socioeconomic lines, the city’s southeast predominantly white and middle-income and its north and west predominantly Black and Hispanic and low-income. This stretch of neighborhoods spanning from the southwest clockwise to the northeast is colloquially referred to as the “Crescent of Poverty,” the product of a long history of redlining, discriminatory housing policies, and racist policing both within the city and across its neighboring suburbs.


Rochester is not a place thought of often by many people, it seems, besides the people from there. It is simultaneously the most a place can be and also somehow nothing at all. Most people from there do not particularly like being there—it is never quite enough of a place. When it does receive accolades, they tend to be negative: the highest homicide rates, the worst poverty. (Image: Collage of newspaper cutout, drawings, and materials.)

Franklin Square

Among the parcels in the highway’s path was Franklin Square Park, a Frederick Law Olmsted design dating back to 1826. The park was cut cleanly in half by the highway’s construction; today, it terminates in a chain-link fence overlooking the roadway below.

Making Place

This project preserves Rochester's Inner Loop's existing grading and material palette, using the conventional tools of road construction towards the disassembly and reassembly of the site for pedestrian use. While the site's existing grading is largely preserved, three common road construction tactics are used: rubblization, asphalt milling, and surface grooving.