Untangling the roots of spatial inequalities

New faculty member Alissa Ujie Diamond brings critical perspective to urban planning program

Published January 22, 2024

Joining the faculty of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning this year is Alissa Ujie Diamond, a multi-disciplinary scholar who pursues research and teaching through the lense of entangled landscapes. 

This approach centers on justice and equity, draws out relationships across scales and through time, denaturalizes accepted histories and social practices, and opens paths to alternative trajectories for the fields of planning and design.

Alissa Diamond.

Alissa Ujie Diamond joined UB in Fall 2023 as assistant professor of urban planning.

Her historically-based research focuses on racial capitalism, resistances, and spatial history in the United States, to understand and unravel the root causes of today’s persistent spatialized inequalities.. Her work is also future-facing, recovering rival genealogies of knowledge for imagining alternative possibilities for urban change and spatial interventions.

An assistant professor, Diamond will be teaching Planning Project capstones, and “Planning Concepts and Controversies."

This map from Diamond’s doctoral dissertation shows the relationship of topography and racial distribution of residents, monuments and major circulation routes in Charlottesville, Va. 

Before joining UB, Alissa worked at the intersection of spatial history, institutional systems, and social change. She collaborated with faculty and community groups to support the development of the University of Virginia Equity Center which opened in 2019.

She also served on the research team for the Monument Lab National Monument Audit released in the Fall 2021. In her creative practice, she uses art to explore and visualize social-material histories around environmental justice, and her work has appeared in the zine Black Ecologies released in the Black Ecologies project at Rutgers University in Fall 2023.

Diamond’s teaching and scholarship draws on 15 years of professional experience making connections between building architecture, urban and regional planning, and landscape architecture. 

As an associate at Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW), in Charlottesville, N.C., she developed methods of regional historical research as a basis for design. 

She holds a PhD in the Constructed Environment, a Master of Landscape Architecture and a BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia School of Architecture. 

Diamond's research explores the relationship between physical high ground and social status in Charlottesville,  Va., during the era of slavery, which she portrays through this topographical diagram depicting Thomas Jefferson as an "elite spatial actor" relative to lower-ground 'slums.'