When listening to Hip Hop giants like Nas, Tupac and Biggie Smalls, architect Michael Ford had an off-the-wall idea: This music could be used to engage traditionally marginalised youths in urban design and the make-up of their communities.
He ran with the idea and turned it into the Hip Hop Architecture Academy, a hugely successful programme that offers kids the chance to meet hip hop artists, urban planners and activists, while learning about physical and 3D modelling techniques — for free. Over 1,200 kids have been through the course to date, with Ford hoping that his intervention could make a “populace of hip hop architects”.
“Hip hop has always been the voice of the voiceless,” Ford said in a video for OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s TV channel. “In architecture, less than 3% of professionals are African American.
“This put me in a position where the voice of the voiceless became that much more important.”
Ford was Adjunct Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture from 2007 – 2009. Since then, as Owner and Design Director of BrandNu Design, he lecturers at architecture schools about the intersection between architecture and hip hop culture.