Michael Ford, The Hip Hop Architect, is dedicated to stimulating cross disciplinary discourse on the intersection of hip hop culture and architecture. BrandNu Design is a blog focused to Ford's research and lecture series titled Hip Hop Architecture.
“On a mild afternoon in Washington, D.C., a makeshift stage has formed in the entryway of the District Architecture Center. Middle-schooler Iyana Benjamin adjusts the arms of her gold-rimmed, circular glasses from beneath a gray beanie and smiles as she looks up from her notebook and out to a few rows of folding chairs, accommodating nine other kids and a few adults. A beat emanating from a nearby laptop breaks the silence, and Benjamin begins to rap. She raps in a matter-of-fact yet firm tone on topics that are well beyond her years, from the swift gentrification of her neighborhood to the overshadowed African American architectswho first built it.”
Huge thanks to Complex for covering The Hip Hop Architecture Design Cypher I hosted at Autodesk in San Francisco back in February 2018. The Design Cypher is based on the curriculum of The Hip Hop Architecture Camp® and challenged some of the top lyricists in hop hop to join some of the top young design minds in architecture to come together and create designs in a fast paced, cross disciplinary environment. The artist included Lupe Fiasco, ChinoXL, Daylty and Nikki Jean, architects and designers included Michael Ford, (The Hip Hop Architect), Bryan C Lee Jr,Jason Pugh, Pascale Sablan, and Julia Weatherspoon.
The 2018 Hip Hop Architecture Design Cypher - YouTube
The Hip Hop Architecture Camp's Design Cypher is a design process created by Michael Ford, The Hip Hop Architect, focusing on the intersection of theory and practice, which challenges participants to explore hip hop culture as a revolutionary approach to understanding, conceiving, and generating architecture.
“Each year, the environmental news site Grist makes a list of 50 innovators working on creative and ambitious solutions to challenges like climate change. “There’s a lot of bad news these days, and I think we’re really intentionally trying to tell stories about what’s possible,” says Andrew Simon, director of content at Grist. Here are a handful of the “fixers” in this year’s edition of the Grist 50”
Linda Cheung, CEO and cofounder of Before It’s Too Late In Miami, where sea-level rise is already leading to more frequent flooding, hundreds of thousands of homes are at risk of chronic flooding in the coming decades. The city’s drinking water supply is also at risk. Linda Cheung’s nonprofit, Before It’s Too Late, uses murals and augmented reality to make the problem visible now so people understand the urgency of taking action now.
Rhiana Gunn-Wright, policy director, New Consensus While working on Abdul El-Sayed’s unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor in Michigan, Rhiana Gunn-Wright became aware of the links between climate action and public health issues from pollution such as asthma and elevated cancer risk. Gunn-Wright, a young black woman who had thought of climate change as an issue for wealthy and white environmentalists, ended up joining New Consensus, the think tank behind the Green New Deal. She helped shape the resolution to include universal healthcare and a federal jobs guarantee so that it takes on poverty and inequality as part of the transition to a clean economy.
Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development As the coal industry collapses in West Virginia and unemployment rises, Brandon Dennison, a sixth-generation West Virginian, is helping train people for new jobs in solar power, sustainable agriculture, green construction, and other types of work. Reclaim Appalachia, one of the social enterprises that is part of Dennison’s organization, Coalfield Development, also helps convert former coal mines for new uses, such as a solar-powered aquaponics farm.
Michael Ford, cofounder of the Urban Arts Collective In a free after-school program called Hip Hop Architecture Camp, kids who might not have considered architecture or urban planning as a career learn about design through hip-hop. Michael Ford, an architect who helped start the program, wanted to address the fact that only 2% of licensed architects now are African-American–and design choices lead to sustainability challenges like pollution or contaminated drinking water.”
“In college, Michael Ford, Assoc. AIA was introduced to a quote by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Architecture is frozen music.” Years later, the self-proclaimed Hip Hop Architect would put his own spin to those words when he launched the Hip Hop Architecture Camp (HHAC), an intensive weeklong program that aims to introduce middle schoolers to the profession and ultimately shows participants how to do just that—freeze music through architecture.
Aimed in part at increasing diversity among architects, the HHAC travels around the country to teach students about the built environment through popular hip-hop and rap songs. The five-day program, often timed with the local schools' break or summer vacation, is currently sponsored by Autodesk and free for the students.”
Taylor Crawford: The Washington DC Hip Hop Architecture Camp
Last week was Washington, D.C.'s turn to experience the movement when Ford hosted 10 middle-school students from the local region at the District Architecture Center. During the Feb. 18-22 event, sponsored by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), students learned how to analyzepopular rap and hip hop lyricsthat discuss the impact of the built environment, construct city models inspired by certain verses, and eventually write their own raps to highlight disparities in the profession.
Taylor Crawford: The Washington DC Hip Hop Architecture Camp
Chicago Hip Hop Architecture Camp. Image by M.O.D Media Productions
“Meanwhile, the Hip Hop Architecture Camps have also gone global. A coincidence resulted in Ford conducting a special Hip Hop Architecture Camp at the Samburu Girls Foundation in Loosuk, Maralal, in Kenya, during June 2018. He was conducting a workshop to design a teen space at a public library in Madison and needed to use a laser cutter. He remembered that there was one at the School of Human Ecology on the University of Wisconsin campus. While he was using the laser cutter the professor who let him use the tool mentioned that she was organizing a trip to help with the Samburu Girls Foundation, which rescues young girls from early marriage and female genital mutilation. Ford decided he wanted to join the trip to the foundation’s campus, which includes a school for 500 girls but not much else — yet.
“We were able to do a camp and allow the young girls to envision the campus,” says Ford. “We also were able to work with Zero Mass Water and give them access to fresh, clean drinking water.”
Through Ford’s ties to hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco and Nikki Jean, he was able to connect the foundation with Zero Mass Water, which has a technology that extracts water vapor from the air to create clean drinking water on the spot. Where before the foundation had to have all its water delivered, now they can get some of their water from 40 of the company’s solar-powered water panels.
The trip to Kenya, while not originally part of the itinerary for the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, turned out to be an ideal means of putting its principles into action, according to Ford.”
"It's about more than just a building. It's about the people, the community and literally making something out of nothing. The goal for us is not only to get more students of color invested in those careers but also to reimagine themselves –and reimagine what their world can look like."
In this SuperSoul Short Film presented by American Family Insurance, watch how Mike Ford is fusing his passions of hip-hop music and architecture to inspire young people of color to think critically and dream fearlessly about their neighborhoods and their communities.
TINKERING AROUND Christian Adams, 9, uses the design program Tinkercad to imagine a new city ROLANDA MASSEY—HIP HOP ARCHITECTURE
Thanks to Time Magazine for Kids covering the Hip Hop Architecture Camp.
Kids then use a design program called Tinkercad. With it, they transform their Lego models into 3D digital versions. They are encouraged to fill their model cities with buildings and structures that they say are missing from their hometown.
Ford believes this approach helps campers learn that architecture is about more than just construction. “The architect’s Number 1 job is to serve people’s needs,” he says. “[Architecture] plays a critical role in determining [or] challenging how people live in certain communities.”
Camper Christian Adams, 9, certainly got the message. He attended the camp in Detroit, Michigan, and was the youngest in his group.
In his design, Christian added a stadium because he wishes his city were a “more exciting” place to visit. “I learned that architecture is not just about building things,” he told TFK. “It’s about designing.”
During The St Louis Hip Hop Architecture Camp's Rap Competition, the young people were surprised by special guests Chingy and M.C. who volunteered their time as judges for the rap competition. The St Louis American covered the event:
“My name is Victor, and my rap name is Chocolate Cake.” Others could not help but laugh as the boy, in a circle of other middle schoolers, introduced himself to St. Louis rap star Howard “Chingy” Bailey and other guests for the first of the two-part culmination of Hip-Hop Architecture Camp.
After learning about design and incorporating the musical genre into building communities, Chocolate Cake joined Sprinkles, Lion (King of the Jungle), Lil Wolf and about two dozen other young people as participants. About half of them were ready to bust a rhyme. They worked on the lyrics over the course of the week-long camp, held at the Natural Bridge Branch of St. Louis County Library two weeks ago. Over an original beat made just for their camp, they would flow in the hopes of leaving an impression on the four judges – which included Chingy and fellow rapper M.C. The winning lyricists would have their rhymes featured on the rap video they were shooting at Busch Stadium.
Before the competition, the students had plenty of questions for Chingy. They wanted to know what it was like to attend the BET Awards. They were curious as to inspired him to make music. They wanted to know how old he was when he first started performing. After being inspired by Michael Jackson, Chingy was 12 years old when he started pursuing a career in music – the same age as several of the camp members."
St. Louis Rappers Chingy and M.C. surprises kids during their rap cypher!
The Hip Hop Architect and Chingy discuss architecture at The St Louis Hip Hop Architecture Camp. Photos by Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Hip Hop Architecture Camp "Rap Competition" winners and volunteers pose with Chingy and M.C.
This summer, local youth will have the opportunity to explore that intersection alongside Ford when he facilitates a Hip Hop Architecture Camp hosted by St. Louis County Library’s Natural Bridge Branch. The camp is open to children between the ages of 11-14 and will take place from July 30 – August 3. Hip Hop Architecture Camp is free – and includes free lunch – but students are required to apply in advance. Applications are currently being accepted through May 21. Interested students will be required to submit a brief essay as part of the application process.