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Hip Hop Architecture

7 Shout-Outs to Architects in Rap Lyrics

09:30 - 23 July, 2018
© Messe Basel
© Messe Basel

About a month before he unveiled his eighth album Ye in June, Kanye West re-entered architectural conversation with the unexpected and mostly unexplained announcement that he intends to hire architects and industrial designers to staff an architecture practice connected to his Yeezy brand. An outspoken fan and admirer of contemporary architecture, Kanye’s fashion and design projects have been a major focus for him since shortly after the prodigious producer started making his own rap albums. Kanye’s architectural ambitions have been an interesting factor in the relationship between architecture and rap culture, which seems to be just coming into focus through programs like the Hip Hop Architecture Camps organized by Michael Ford’s Urban Arts Collective, and the research of Sekou Cooke. Architecture and rap music have influenced each other in ways we’re just starting to notice—with the connection between the two even revealed as consciously and conspicuously as rappers including references to notable architects in their lyrics.

Stop Talking Kanye: No More Defense for Kanye West

09:30 - 22 May, 2018
Stop Talking Kanye: No More Defense for Kanye West, Kanye West performing at Boston's TD Garden during his 2016 Saint Pablo tour. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/kennyysun/29441840635'>Flickr user kennyysun</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
Kanye West performing at Boston's TD Garden during his 2016 Saint Pablo tour. Image © Flickr user kennyysun licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since the publication of “Keep Talking Kanye: An Architect’s Defense of Kanye West” I have become an unwilling Kanye apologist. Each time he produces music that tempts us to use the moniker “creative genius” he quickly follows with an interview or tweet that makes him look like anything but. Invariably thereafter, a chain of text messages and emails with titles like “just to irritate you” or “come get your boy” begin to flood my inbox. My standard response is often no different from SNL’s Michael Che on Weekend Update: when presented with a headshot of Kanye and the caption “slavery was a choice” the comedian shakes his head and states simply, “Pass!” However, now that Kanye has once again entered the sphere of architectural discourse with a proposed new endeavor called “Yeezy Home” I am compelled to intervene once again with a more direct “put up or shut up” message.

Hip-Hop Architecture Camps Use Rap Music to Inspire a Diverse Generation of Future Architects

14:00 - 6 April, 2018
Hip-Hop Architecture Camps Use Rap Music to Inspire a Diverse Generation of Future Architects, Hip-Hop Architecture Camps are not the first events to explore the relationship between hip-hop and architecture. Previous unconnected projects have explored hip-hop urbanism, such as <a href='https://www.archdaily.com/874826/envisioning-a-hip-hop-urbanism-in-washington-dc'> Ivy City Redux in Washington DC</a> which sought to reclaim existing urban space in an ever-growing scheme adherent to rules set by its occupants. Image © Kyle Simmons
Hip-Hop Architecture Camps are not the first events to explore the relationship between hip-hop and architecture. Previous unconnected projects have explored hip-hop urbanism, such as Ivy City Redux in Washington DC which sought to reclaim existing urban space in an ever-growing scheme adherent to rules set by its occupants. Image © Kyle Simmons

Throughout the spring and summer of 2018, seventeen US cities will host “Hip Hop Architecture Camps,” an initiative founded by the Urban Arts Collective seeking to address the lack of diversity in America’s architectural community. As reported by CNET, the architecture camps will be sponsored by Autodesk, makers of the architectural software AutoCAD.

Hip Hop Architecture Camps are geared towards students between the ages of 10 and 17, introducing students to architecture and urban planning by analyzing the structure and rhythm of rap music. By demonstrating a connection between music and architecture, the organizers hope to ignite a design flair in young students, helping to create a future where local communities have a stronger input into how urban areas are shaped or altered.

Envisioning a Hip-Hop Urbanism in Washington DC

09:30 - 30 June, 2017
Collage from Ivy City, a preliminary stage of the Ivy City Redux project. Image © Kyle Simmons
Collage from Ivy City, a preliminary stage of the Ivy City Redux project. Image © Kyle Simmons

The following is a manifesto, in search of a movement... In it, I am proposing a theory of architecture based around a ruffneck, antisocial, hip-hop, rudeboy ethos. [1]
– Kara Walker

In her companion publication to the 2014 group exhibition “Ruffneck Constructivists,” the show’s curator, Kara Walker, lays down a radical manifesto for urban intervention. Just months before Ferguson [2] and a year before Baltimore, [3] Walker proposes her theory through which installation artists (along with architects and designers by extension) can become “defiant shapers of environments.” [4] The invocation and juxtaposition of the terms hip-hop and architecture in the intro to her manifesto is particularly remarkable given the show’s exclusive assembly of visual and installation artists.

The Fifth Pillar: A Case for Hip-Hop Architecture

01:00 - 30 April, 2014
The Fifth Pillar: A Case for Hip-Hop Architecture, Filip Dujardin’s ‘Fictions’ - a series of photographic plates of fictional architectural spaces. Image Courtesy of Highlight Gallery
Filip Dujardin’s ‘Fictions’ - a series of photographic plates of fictional architectural spaces. Image Courtesy of Highlight Gallery

The following article by Sekou Cooke was originally published in The Harvard Journal of African American Planning Policy.

Not DJ Kool Herc. Not The Sugarhill Gang. Not Crazy Legs. Not even Cornbread. The true father of hip-hop is Moses. The tyrannical, mercilessly efficient head of several New York City public works organizations, Robert Moses, did more in his fifty-year tenure to shape the physical and cultural conditions required for hip-hop’s birth than any other force of man or nature. His grand vision for the city indifferently bulldozed its way through private estates, middle-class neighborhoods, and slums. His legacy: 658 playgrounds, 28,000 apartment units, 2,600,000 acres of public parks, Flushing Meadows, Jones Beach, Lincoln Center, all interconnected by 416 miles of parkways and 13 bridges. Ville Radieuse made manifest, not by Le Corbusier, the visionary architect, but by “the best bill drafter in Albany.”

This new urbanism deepened the rifts within class and culture already present in post-war New York, elevated the rich to midtown penthouses and weekend escapes to the Hamptons or the Hudson Valley, and relegated the poor to crowded subways and public housing towers—a perfect incubator for a fledgling counterculture.  One need not know all the lyrics to Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” or Melle Mel’s “White Lines” to appreciate the incendiary structures built by Moses and his policies. As the Bronx began to burn, hip-hop began to rise.