The Divided City 2022 wins $1 million grant

Urban humanities initiative wins Mellon Foundation support

Catalina Freixas (second from right) leads students in "Segregation by Design." Launched as part of The Divided City project, in collaboration with Mark Abbott and Joseph Heathcott, the class examined the causes and consequences of residential segregation in metropolitan St. Louis. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

How do borders shape our lives? What powers enforce them? When, where and why are boundaries transgressed?

Over the past four years, The Divided City, an urban humanities initiative at Washington University in St. Louis, has supported dozens of classes, seminars and research projects investigating the history, mechanisms and contemporary effects of spatial segregation.

This fall, the university will launch a second phase, The Divided City 2022, thanks to a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“The focus on segregation, which both anchored and animated the first four years of the Divided City Initiative, is no less pertinent than it was in 2014,” said Jean Allman, director of the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, who serves as co-principal investigator with Bruce Lindsey, E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Allman noted that the original Divided City initiative received Mellon funding just months before the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “The Ferguson uprising profoundly shaped the work, the priorities and the collaborative energy of The Divided City and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” she said.

“Our original intent was to explore how segregation, in its broadest sense, plays out in cities, buildings, neighborhoods, public spaces and other urban landscapes,” Lindsey said. “Ferguson and all it has come to symbolize — the sustained activism, the militarized police response — has profoundly shaped our work, and brought these issues into razor-sharp focus.

“But these problems are not unique to St. Louis,” Lindsey added. “Segregation, inequality, the urban divide — these are global concerns.”

Pipelines, bridges and collaboration

With The Divided City 2022, Allman and Lindsey aim to further scholarship on the urban humanities while also building long-term institutional stability.

Priorities include: 1) developing more diverse pipelines into architecture and design; 2) building curricular bridges between these fields and the humanities; and 3) fostering collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to the study of segregation.

New initiatives will include: an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate in the urban humanities; an annual Informal Cities Workshop; two new urban humanities courses — “Building a Garden” and “History, Society, and Landscape Urbanism” —offered as part of the Washington University Prison Education Project; and the Divided City Ampersand Program, a series of undergraduate seminars focusing on segregation.

The Divided City 2022 also will extend the Center for the Humanities’ “studiolab” pilot program to include a program in the urban humanities. (Inspired by studio and laboratory collaborations, studiolabs are close-knit communities of faculty and students, based at the Lewis Center in University City, focusing on a particular theme or problem for a period of one year.)

In addition, The Divided City 2022 will continue funding for the City Seminar, which invites regional and international scholars to share ideas about urban issues.

Grants and fellowships

Support also will continue for the Divided City Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowships. Intended to forge interdisciplinary connections, the two-month fellowships are open to graduate students in the humanities, humanistic social sciences, architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.

In addition, The Divided City 2022 will continue support for the Sam Fox School’s Alberti Program. Sponsored in partnership with PGAV Destinations, the Alberti Program is a free architecture workshop for St. Louis students ages 8–16. The Divided City will offer support for graduate coordinators, who will help develop new curricula exploring intersections between design and the humanities.

Also continuing will be the faculty collaborative grants, which support projects involving the humanities and at least one other discipline. Awards of up to $20,000 may be used to support research relating to urban segregation/separation, field work in non-U.S. contexts, and projects that strengthen connections between the university and the St. Louis community.

In addition to Mellon funding, The Divided City 2022 is supported by: the Office of the Provost; the College of Arts & Sciences; the Center for the Humanities and the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture.

The Center for the Humanities will host an official launch event at the City Museum Oct. 22. For more information, contact the Center for the Humanities or visit


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