“Hip hop architecture is a critique of modernism. It’s a critique of the style of architecture that birthed the culture.” – Michael Ford
On Lexington Avenue and 53nd Street in Manhattan another Sir Norman Foster residential glass tower will finish soon. It will once again not be inhabited by New Yorkers, and will have nothing to do with the street life of New York City. Similarly to Rafael Viñoly’s skyscraper condos and penthouses that are bought by Saudi Arabian princes, tech billionaires, and supermodel Cindy Crawford, all of whom will seldom occupy the space, but simply buy these multi million dollar apartments as ornaments in their collection, this residential tower is designed to create more social injustice, and to separate us from them.
The fact is, in most great cities, the “high architecture” is rarely for the people who are from there and actually call it home for their entire lives. It’s for the outsiders. The ones who love the idea of this great city, but do not understand it. And they never will. Instead, architecture should be for the people, not for the wealthiest few who only want to say they live in a Gehry, a Viñoly, a Foster. That is the bastardization of design. It is design at its worst, at its most egocentric, at its most unjust.
Michael Ford, founder of the Urban Arts Collective and the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, says we need to Design Justice, which to me means we need architecture for the people. Previously, as Ford also stated, urban architecture, particularly in the designs of Robert Moses, only served to exploit people of color and of low socioeconomic status. Moses, by stealing Le Corbusier’s ideas and making “the worst remix in history,” did everything he could to make life difficult for the people of the Bronx. Michael Ford says it’s time to take back control of their lifestyle, and the only way to do that is to design their city themselves. That’s why he’s devoted his life to inspiring young designers and architects of color to build the world they inhabit.
Architecture for the people doesn’t only mean hip hop architecture, but in many cities, especially in the United States, having hip hop architecture would be a great start. For example, the Universal Hip Hop Museum which will open in the South Bronx in 2022, will be a breeding ground for Design Justice.
Hip hop architecture is a movement. And it starts by having more people of color designing our cities and landscapes. Today only 3% of Architects in the US are African American, and that number must change.
By: David Plick