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Over the years, Michael Ford—a designer based in Wisconsin—has written, lectured, and theorized about Modernism as a catalyst for hip-hop. Now, Ford is at work designing the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, what he calls the “first representation of hip-hop architecture around the world.”
To Ford, the idea of infusing architecture with hip-hop is not only a way to make better buildings, it’s a tool to improve the profession’s embarrassing track record on diversity. “Hip-hop architecture is a vessel that allows minority students and professionals to make architecture something relevant to them,” he says.
The diversity problem today
According to a 2015 report from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (the 2016 report will be released some time this month), only 4% of registered architects identified as black or African-American. The overall percentage of minority architects has risen in the past few years, but there’s still plenty of headway to be made.
Ford believes there are three things that need to happen to improve the numbers: getting people of color interested in learning about architecture at a young age, making the subject compelling enough to maintain interest, and finding ways to get community members involved in the design process so they feel a sense of ownership over architectural projects.
“I think this idea of infusing architecture with hip-hop will definitely bolster the numbers and bolster the opportunity for schools to recruit students,” Ford says. “Once students are there, it offers an opportunity for increasing their retention because if there’s something relevant, they’ll want to stick around. It also provides an opportunity for immediate contributions from young architects and designers because this is a new style and approach to architecture.” […]