As some of you may know, I practiced architecture before working at 88Nine. While studying architecture at Howard University, I developed an interest in finding connections between design and music. Then a few days ago, a friend posted about a lecture connecting hip hop with architecture, which piqued my interest.
Today at 4:30 pm, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee will host a lecture by Mike Ford entitled “Le Corbusier, The Forefather of Hip Hop?” For those not familiar with Le Corbusier, he was an architect that created a plan for Paris in 1920s. Part of that plan was called “Towers in the Park,” which was tall, plain buildings for the working class. His designs would later be adapted for public housing in the United States in places like Chicago and South Bronx.
The book “Waiting For Gautreaux: A Story of Segregation, Housing and the Black Ghetto” by Alexander Polikoff examines the effect of Le Corbusier design’s on public housing:
“Chicago’s prewar public housing was low-rise, mostly two story row houses. In the postwar years, the ides of Swiss architect Le Corbusier led to a radical change. Le Corbusier’s vision for urban living was a “vertical garden city” of blocks of apartments stacked atop one another surrounded by parkland. A few low-rise developments would still be built beginning to dominate much of architectural world, including the design of Chicago’s public housing”
But what does this have to do with Hip Hop? This is the focus of the lecture by Mike Ford, a designer born and raised in the city of Detroit. Ford received his Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), where he completed his graduate thesis titled “Hip Hop Inspired Architecture and Design.” Ford describes the connection between architecture and Hip Hop:
“Robert Moses adopted Le Corbusier's plan for Paris, as he constructed the Cross Bronx Expressway in the South Bronx, which was slated to displace a large amount of residents. Moses looked to keep those residents adjacent to their former homes by building high-density housing towers," Ford says. "And those very towers that Robert Moses constructed became the birthplace of hip-hop. The officially recognized birthplace of hip-hop is 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, which is a low-income, high-density adaptation of Le Corbusier's plan.
"Many of hip-hop's most prominent artists were born, raised, and perfected their crafts in those very same housing projects. Hip-hop was a result of the economical, political, and sociological deprivations instituted by the housing projects across America."
The lecture at UWM focuses on the subconscious contributions of famed architects and urban planners to the environments which necessitated the birth of hip hop culture. This lecture will culminate with urban culture’s influence on the architectural profession through three interconnected realms: academic research, professional practice and media, ultimately introducing a new architectural style, one inspired by hip hop culture.
You can read more about this topic on Mike Ford’s Hip Hop Architecture Blog.