Hip Hop Architect in the House!

–submitted by Dawn Crim; photo by John Bonsett-Veal


Club President Michelle McGrath and Michael Ford

What can Rotarians learn from the intersection between hip hop and architecture? Michael Ford educated Rotarians on the intersection first starting with history. How hip hop has influenced things over time with things ranging from chairs, boots and photos to artist evolutions. Michael Ford took Rotarians through the creative journeys of Pablo Picasso’s art and Le Corbusier’s architecture illustrating their connection to Hip Hop and the influence Hip Hop had on their work.

Michael Ford shared how Le Corbusier’s five design elements first introduced in Paris were brought to life in urban buildings in New York through Robert Moses’ designed buildings. Unfortunately, Robert Moses only took parts of Le Corbusier’s plan, just using the physical structure, missing the spirit of what the building could do for people. The result, Michael Ford described as an architectural ‘bad remix’ because the buildings in New York City, although similar in physical structure were considered ‘concrete jungles’, not contributing positively to the spirit and lives of the people living there.

According to the talk, it is no coincidence that rap was born in New York City, in the Bronx, because that is where many of these structures were built. One can trace rap songs in the 1970’s back to descriptions of these structures.

From the popularity of his lectures and expertise, Michael Ford is helping to design the Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.  He is working with Hip Hop artists from the 70’s and 80’s like Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang to design exhibits to tell their our story in the museum. The museum will include public housing, market rate housing, a hotel, children’s museum, retail space and an amphitheater.

Michael Ford has done talks and projects all around the country. He has also created Hip Hip Architecture Camps here in Madison. The camp’s mission is to introduce traditionally marginalized or underrepresented youth to architecture, urban planning and economic development through the lens of hip-hop culture.

He has partnered with the City of Madison Department of Planning, Community & Economic Development, The Madison Public Library and Capital Area Regional Planning Commission to help kids bring their visions and voices into the Imagine Madison Initiative. This initiative will provide input into the City’s 25-Year Comprehensive plan.

From the response to today’s talk, many Rotarians may also bring their ideas to the plan. Some of those ideas may be grounded in hip hop.

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