Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Kathryn E. Holliday


In considering the design of protest events, one might assume a certain set of conditions, for example the focus of civic monuments and buildings within an appropriated public civic space. However, are these conditions constant and required throughout all protest events? This research examines the destinations and routes taken by participants in the 2017 Women’s March to better understand the role landscape architecture and urban design play in supporting and advocating for the ideals of public democracy during times of civil unrest. To quote the recently renewed Landscape Declaration, “Landscape architects bring different and often competing interests together so as to give artistic physical form and integrated function to the ideals of equity, sustainability, resiliency and democracy.” Landscape architects are part of a prestigious profession in which knowledge of environmental and socio-cultural systems are constantly intertwined and utilized while designing spaces for people. Here, the socio-cultural system of democracy is the portion of the declaration that provides focus… “democracy provides citizens with ‘the right to the city,’ which includes the right to participation and appropriation in their shared urban environment” (Parkinson, 2015, p. 25). For this reason, the discussion of the landscapes of protest is crucial to the advocacy of the democratic ideals of American culture. I ask, how do the landscapes of the 2017 Women’s March in the United States embrace the potential for socio-political spatial dialogue within the urban context of 21st century cities? This thesis looks specifically at examples from the 2017 Women’s March to explore possible commonalities in the kinds of urban spaces that provide a platform for large-scale, peaceful demonstrations. The 2017 Women’s March was chosen because it took place in multiple locations around the world at the same time with a common underlying mission to “dismantle systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect” (Women’s March, 2017). The 2017 Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history with approximately 4 million participants. The cities which embraced some of the largest numbers of participants during this historic protest event include, but are not limited to, Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, and Denver. To explore these questions of designed public space and protest, I look closely at the design of the route, mode of procession, space of gathering, edge of dissension, and focus of the occupation of these cities. It should be noted that this research does not intend on looking at specific design elements within each design public space. This research instead, explores the broader spatial framework of this planned protest. This analysis provides perspectives on how people use and occupy urban spaces for democratic peaceful protest when these spaces may serve as platforms for realizing social change. Figure-ground maps are created and utilized to reconstruct the spatial context and dimension of the occupation in each city. In addition, a standardized, open-ended interview approach is taken with event organizers, subject matter experts, that does not require IRB approval. The analysis of the spatial framework for these planned protests may suggest ways for landscape architects to understand and advocate for the relationship between designed public space and the ideals of public democracy, and democratic speech. I conclude that in the context of this contemporary protest, the 2017 Women’s March, two linked landscapes matter: the procession through the city, offering visual opportunity for remote viewers and media coverage as well as, and the spatial form of gathering, both the crowds and the space occupied. There are many overarching similarities or dimensions to the design of these protests, however each event proves unique in its ability to adapt in the respective urban landscapes provided. Each city offers a unique urban fabric met at the intersection of local geography, cultural history, and economic influences from which to democratically perform.


Protest, Urban design, Land use, Landscape architecture, Democracy


Architecture | Landscape Architecture


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington