“Map the Gap: Visualizing Sociospatial Inequity in the U.S.” is a research project that explores the link between design and social justice in the built environment. Offered as a for-credit seminar in the fall 2015 semester, the project is rooted in current events and situated within larger efforts led by the AASU. “Map the Gap” investigates socioeconomic, spatial, and political inequities across four categories in several U.S. cities that have been impacted by recent police shootings.

Analyzing these fatalities within their specific context, as well as within citywide, state, and federal policy is central to “Map the Gap.” Investigations are structured around a fatal encounters atlas that develops narratives around three Black victims of fatal encounters from Baltimore, Boston, and St. Louis. Baltimore and St. Louis were chosen in response to the fatalities of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown respectively, and Boston because of its contentious and well-known history of race relations. In an attempt to humanize each of the victims, our work moves through a dot referenced on a map, to a narrative of a human life, to a detailing of each victim’s community fabric. By contextualizing fatalities within their individual environments, the project offers a new lens with which to better understand the climate of police brutality in the United States.

Following the atlas, a set of categorical studies follows that deepens our understanding of the dynamic and unjust forces in impacted cities. The project primarily examines the three cities across (1) their histories of urban renewal, (2) the stark racial divisions in their educational systems, and (3) their public transportation networks and job mobility. As inequities are analyzed, overarching national trends may surface, which unearth systemic injustice latent in U.S. cities.