Towards a Hip-Hop Architecture

After hosting the symposium “Towards A Hip-Hop Architecture” (the first of its kind on the topic) in March 2015 at Syracuse University School of Architecture, Jack Travis, FAIA asked me to host a similar event in New York City at the AIANY Center for Architecture. The only difference was that I now had two hours instead of two days and zero budget for invited guests. I decided to use this as an opportunity to both summarize highlights from the Syracuse event and to present my continued research into the topic of hip-hop architecture. The following video is of that NYC event in January 2016 introduced by Travis. Many of the resources cited in the video are now available under my curator profile on Section Cut.

Hip-hop, begun as a small subculture of an underrepresented community, has evolved to become one of the most pervasive, diverse, and profitable phenomena in today’s society. A movement that once began with break beats in basement apartments, dance battles under the expressways, freestyle rapping on street corners, and tagging buildings, trucks and subway cars has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Architecture, on the other hand, has been continually lacking in pervasiveness, diversity, and profitability. Historically dominated by independently wealthy white males, the discipline has much to learn from the hip-hop industry and much to gain from continued association with this cultural revolution.

As artists like Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West expand their creative influence into the built environment, hip-hop is on the verge of assimilating architecture into its identity. Meanwhile, in an era that questions the role of aesthetics and technology in practice, architecture is poised to define a new “-ism” that positions itself within a larger creative and philosophical frame. Might this perfect confluence of popular culture and theoretical need lead to the birth of hip-hop architecture? Does hip-hop architecture already exist? If so, who are its practitioners? Is there an architectural image or a style that reflects hip-hop ideals? Is there a formal language or organizational structure that it should employ? Is there a process and attitude towards design that separates hip-hop architecture from conventional architectural practice?

These are the primary questions that were unpacked during the symposium “Towards A Hip-Hop Architecture,” held at Syracuse University in March 2015. The topic was broken down into sections covering the theory, history, visualization, and practice of hip-hop architecture. Sekou Cooke, Architect, Assistant Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture, and the event organizer will seek to answer these questions in “Towards A Hip-Hop Architecture – NYC Edition,” by presenting highlights from the event at Syracuse, the work of contemporary practitioners, and student projects from a recent Hip-Hop Architecture seminar.

Organized by: AIA New York Chapter and AIA New York Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Resources for More Hip-Hop Architecture

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