Mary Taylor


Masters in Urban Planning Thesis Prize

Urban Planning and Mental Wellness in Black Communities

Advised by Toni L. Griffin

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. 

Diagram of structural systems of oppression as experienced by Black women.

Diagram of disciplinary frameworks influencing proposed planning for healing justice framework.

Diagram of proposed framework connecting structural racism to neighborhood configuration and conditions and mental health outcomes, based off of frameworks by Williams and Mohammed, Schulz and Northridge, and Gee and Payne-Sturges.

Explanation of typological analysis system used to examine a neighborhood’s physical and social condition and how these elements may contribute to mental health.

Sample typological analysis of environmental neighborhood conditions experienced by residents of Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.