Hip Hop and Designing for the City at SXSW Eco 2016


Written by Ari Roth

Every year SXSW Eco, a conference that celebrates the power of design and ideas to impact social and environmental change, highlights unique projects that rethink how we interact with public space as part of their Place by Design Competition.

This year's 36 Place by Design Finalists demonstrate that place-based design has far-reaching influence, and that all types of places, from the lowly median to the standard storefront, to the towering, abandoned steel plant, can be repurposed to be inspirational and of community value.

One finalist in particular poses a deceptively simple question: How can a city’s unique culture and history best be reflected through its architecture? Their answer: by designing with the city in mind.

The Hip Hop Architect

Mike Ford, the “Hip Hop Architect”, is the mind behind the Universal Hip Hop Museum project. The hip-hop museum is well under way and its future home will be within the very neighborhood that birthed Hip Hop itself – the Bronx. Mike has let us in on some of the unique designs he has planned for the area.

Among them is a bold plan to transform the historic Bronx County Courthouse into New York’s Universal Hip Hop Museum. He also recently announced an plans to convertan 18- wheeler truck into a traveling museum exhibit. This project, a 2016 finalist in SXSW Eco’s Place by Design Competition, will be presented during SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas from October 10-12.

Throughout the design process, Mike and his team have gained support from high profile hip hop artists such as Rakim, who have recently signed on to help promote the project. Rakim, in a CityLab article by Brentin Mock, describes how Mike’s project is the embodiment of what they were doing with music in the park back in the day. “Taking the history that surrounded us in everyday life, breaking it down and creating something new to express ourselves.” Mike’s hip-hop architecture combines the rich history of Bronx’s neighborhood with innovative design that tells the story of the development of hip-hop.

Hip Hop Architecture at SXSW Eco

Mike will be discussing the connections between architecture, hip-hop, and social justice at SXSW Eco this October along with his team member, Bryan Lee of the New Orleans Arts Council. During their session they will focus on the intersection of theory and practice and explore hip-hop as a revolutionary approach to creating impactful architecture for a city. Don’t miss the chance to hear about the unique project that will revitalize Bronx’s Courthouse and ultimately, provide the home for the study of Hip Hop cultures’ past, present and future. Check out all of the other unique sessions at SXSW Eco.

Attend SXSW Eco 2016

SXSW Eco creates a space for business leaders, policy makers, innovators and designers to advance solutions that drive social, economic and environmental change. Register to attend SXSW Eco today to join us October 10-12, 2016!

Bryan Lee & Mike Ford | Photo courtesy of the speakers

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