New Seed Grants Sow Interdisciplinary Research Between MAPP, School of Public Health

May 12, 2023 / Updated May 22, 2023

Inaugural Projects Dig Into Connections Between Built Environment, Health Outcomes, Quality of Life

People by walls of grafitti art at the Broccolli City Festival
Image Caption
People enjoying the Broccoli City Festival in Congress Heights, a residential neighborhood in Washington D.C. rooted in African American history, art and culture. Credit: Broccoli City Festival.

This story appeared on the School of Public Health website. Written by Allison Leigh Eatough. 

The University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (MAPP) and the School of Public Health (SPH) announced today the awardees of their inaugural Healthy Places Seed Grants - a funding program designed to spark innovative research around the challenges of building healthy, equitable communities.

Eight projects led by MAPP, SPH, College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) and College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS) faculty received grants through the program, which supports partnerships across UMD to explore the impacts of the built environment on health outcomes, opportunity and a community’s quality of life. 

“This funding is an investment, not only in the growing partnership and shared mission between MAPP and the School of Public Health but also in the big ideas that will make healthier, more remarkable places,” said MAPP Dean Dawn Jourdan. “The questions we seek to answer—in our quest to achieve more resilient and just communities—are the same.”

“The communities and spaces we live in impact our health in so many ways,” added SPH Dean Boris Lushniak. “These new seed grants support projects that are crucial to increasing resilience and improving health for vulnerable communities in our region. I congratulate all the seed grant awardees!”

Grants range between $2,500 and $30,000. Awarded projects:

Trauma-Informed Practices in Urban Planning for Immigrant Integration: Learning from Health-Related Disciplines

Research Team: Clara Irazábal (MAPP), Elizabeth Aparicio (SPH), Nohely Alvarez (MAPP)

Many immigrants face conditions that trigger significant mental stress and disturbances before, during and after migration. While health-related disciplines, including psychology, social work, and public health, have long traditions of trauma-informed practices, there is still insufficient attention to this population’s needs. This project will explore how urban planning can adapt and adopt therapeutic approaches to better support and help migrants for their well-being.

All of the Heights: Exploring Spatial Memory in the Experiences of Community Members in The Heights Neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. and Maryland Impacted by Migration and Gentrification

Research Team:  Georgeanne Matthews (MAPP), Rabiatu Barrie (SPH)

This project seeks to use architecture as a lens to critique systemic inequalities and their long term, often violent consequences. Researchers will examine and preserve neighborhood culture and history, uncover erased or unheard narratives and seek to elevate restorative justice outcomes for the District Heights, Hillcrest Heights and Fairmount Heights communities in Maryland and the Congress Heights community in Washington, D.C. 

Gentrification and Displacement in the Purple Line Corridor

Research Team: Nicholas Finio (MAPP), Casey Dawkins (MAPP), Shuling Wu (SPH)

The State of Maryland is investing heavily in the Purple Line, a new light rail line that will run directly through UMD’s campus. The line, which is scheduled to open in 2026, is already catalyzing higher real estate costs. Researchers will develop an innovative methodology for measuring household-level displacement due to gentrification. 

Art, Equity and Building Community Trust: A Pilot Project to Address Displacement along the Purple Line Corridor

Research Team: Sheila Somashekhar (MAPP), Stephen Thomas (SPH), Jane Hirshberg (ARHU)

This project will use qualitative interviews, local artist-led conversations and a variety of hyperlocal engagement methods to identify community housing priorities and develop a scalable model for addressing displacement and advancing health equity in communities along the Purple Line Corridor. The project will also build stronger and more coordinated UMD relationships with communities in a key area near campus and expand opportunities for greater impact on equitable development. 

Improving Park Safety and Building Healthier Communities: An In-depth Comparison of Crime-Hot and Crime-Cold Parks in Urban Baltimore

Research Team: Lauren Porter (BSOS), Bianca Bersani (BSOS), Elaine Doherty (SPH), Chester Harvey (MAPP)

This project will use a combination of spatial analysis and mixed-method field surveys to identify and investigate crime in parks within the same Baltimore neighborhoods. Researchers will lay the groundwork and provide data for a National Institutes of Health or National Institute of Justice proposal to expand the project to additional communities and explore community-informed interventions to improve park safety.

Lines in Space: Molding et al

Researcher: Lindsey May (MAPP)

Architectural molding is an important detail element that, despite its significant impact on spatial design, is typically addressed late in the design process by a builder without involving the building owner and/or designer. This research article will explore how to reclaim this aspect of design within the design process, rather than as an afterthought of construction, and focus on a new theory of moldings that will update and comment on the original The Theory of Mouldings book published nearly a century ago.

Seeing Blinds: Architecture for Avian Landscapes

Researcher: Michael Ezban (MAPP)

Recent massive declines in global bird populations demand attention, care and action. This project shows the blind as an architectural typology of renewed significance and explores contemporary iterations and rich histories of these small-scale enclosures or screens from which people surreptitiously watch birds, and presents ways that blinds contribute to the production of healthy places shared by multiple species. The project includes a book and exhibition—featuring ample illustrations and an interactive blind—and containing a global catalog of 32 innovative bird blinds, designed by contemporary architects, landscape architects and artists sited in public parks and landscapes.

Community Hub – From Neighborhood School to UCAP Headquarters

Researcher: Jennifer Xu (MAPP)

Weaving together multiple disciplines—including architecture, design, cultural heritage, historic building heritage, community storytelling and social and racial justice—documents a historical restoration and adaptation of the Fairmount Heights School, a historic landmark in the Fairmount Heights community of Prince George’s County, Maryland. The school is significant for its association with the architect William Sidney Pittman, a noted African American architect and civil rights activist. Operating as a school from 1912-1934, then serving for 70 years as the Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church, the school became the headquarters of the non-profit United Communities Against Poverty. Plans include an exhibit about Sidney Pittman and the restoration and adapted reuse of the building as a community organization along with a report and a journal publication.

The Healthy Places Seed Grant program builds on a growing partnership and emerging research collaborations between the two schools, including a dual Master of Community Planning (MCP) and Master of Public Health (MHP) degree, an ongoing water quality study in Baltimore between Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Marccus Hendricks, Post-Doctoral Associate Priscila Alves and SPH Assistant Professor Rachel Rosenberg Goldstein and a new UMD initiative to address environmental racism and climate change in the Mid-Atlantic, led by SPH Professor Sacoby Wilson and the MAPP, Environmental Finance Center’s Jennifer Cotting.

Learn more about the Healthy Places Seed Grant Program.