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hip hop architecture camp

Written by Francisco J Rosales, Landscape Designer

The Hip Hop Architecture Camp, founded by Michael Ford, is a week long experience designed to introduce Architecture, Urban Planning, and economic development practices to underrepresented youth through Hip Hop culture. The camp is based on the “4C’s” which are creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking. Topics explored are the intersection of Hip Hop culture and the built environment through three interconnected realms; media, professional practice, and academia.

I was fortunate to attend two sessions.

The first session began with a listening exercise. Two hip hop songs were presented to the campers (Nas – “I can” and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air – “Theme song”), with lyrics containing topics of environmental injustice, the power of following your dreams, everyday struggles within inner city communities, and future career choices. After listening to the songs, the kids wrote down keywords/lyrics that resonated with the topics listed. The next step dealt with creating (6) 16×8 individual block outlines on graph paper. Each block was up to interpretation, giving kids the freedom to choose what to build. Wooden blocks represented buildings and beads represented trees/landscape, all tools to create an environment based on the keywords they wrote down. It was exciting to see kids interact with each other while coming up with their own individual concepts. Some blocks had very detailed areas of interest while others focused on a broader scope. Once everyone finished, a group presentation was next, concluding with everyone voting on their favorite piece.

The second session focused on creating a board game structured after monopoly, that combined hip hop artists and the cities they came from. The purpose for the activity was to bring awareness to places they once didn’t know about, as well as create a connection between place and people. This activity was interesting to see because each board was encouraged to have its own theme, and like monopoly, each kid created its own unique game pieces based on an artist they felt represented them the best. Like the first session, a group presentation was made and a winner was selected. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the final day of the camp which included the recording of a music video of a rap song kids created in a session earlier in the week, but the impact the experience gave me was inspiring.

This camp was a great experience that gave me an appreciation for what I do. As a Landscape Designer, it was a reminder of the power of design and how it can have a positive effect on our environment and neighborhoods. It was also a reminder of the power of my voice, not only as a designer but as a person who cares for social justice. Many inner city neighborhoods are neglected from crucial elements of good design. Lack of quality open space, unsafe environmental conditions, crumbling infrastructure and insufficient transportation options contribute to degradation of inner city neighborhoods. By creating a positive learning experience for youth, Hip Hop Architecture Camp promotes awareness of the urban environment.

If I could take one thing from my experience at the Hip Hop Architecture Camp it is the essence of compassion in design and the willingness to create with a moral compass in mind, reminding us of our importance in the sociology of places.

Learn more about Hip Hop Architecture Camp HERE