2021 Urban Planning Thesis Prize: Mary Louise Chatters Taylor’s “Urban Planning and Mental Wellness in Black Communities”

Exterior view of city from park

by Mary Louise Chatters Taylor (MUP '20) — Recipient of the Urban Planning Thesis Prize

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has received the designation of “Most Livable City” despite widespread structural inequities that harm marginalized people, making it one of the worst cities in the country for Black women. This stark contrast reveals a tale of two Pittsburghs, in which race and class have a significant bearing on health, educational, and economic outcomes.

These inequities are rendered in the built environment. Structural racism, historic urban planning and policy decisions, and the postindustrial context have contributed to the creation of an apartheid condition in which environmental stressors negatively impact Black residents’ mental health.

Utilizing Pittsburgh as a case study, this thesis proposes a methodology to analyze the linkages between race, the built environment, and community mental health. Building on radical mental health frameworks, such as healing justice, this thesis suggests alternative approaches to urban planning in order to cultivate spaces that are liberatory, caring, mutually affirming, and just.