DIVERSIFYING ARCHITECTURE THROUGH HIP-HOP FOR BETTER BUILT COMMUNITIES

August 1, 2019

The Hip Hop Architecture Camp® is “a one week intensive experience, designed to introduce under represented youth to architecture, urban planning, creative place making and economic development through the lens of hip hop culture.” Founded by Detroit native and architect Michael Ford, the camp is a catalyst for introducing students currently underrepresented in the architectural and urban planning profession to the power of design. Without exposure through The Hip Hop Architecture Camp®, these career paths might not have been considered as options and the potential of their influence would continue to be lost.

With support from TVA Architects, the Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO), AutoDesk, National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC), Oregon Chapter, and Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) worked in conjunction with local architects and community partners to host this camp in Portland and give local youth the opportunity to explore the design world.

“I became interested in bringing the Hip Hop Architecture Camp® to Portland after reading about Michael Ford’s work in Dezeen,” said Mandy Butler, Principal at TVA Architects, located in Portland, Oregon. [Article by Eleanor Gibson, (23 January 2018). “Architecture has not been promoted to communities of colour.” Dezeen. Retrieved from https://www.dezeen.com/2018/01/23/kanye-west-pharrell-williams-solange-knowles-promote-diversity-architecture-interview-michael-ford/].

Butler continues, “TVA Architects was thrilled to support the Architectural Foundation of Oregon in planning and sponsoring the 2019 camp at the Self Enhancement Institute.”

Pam Saftler, Principal at TVA Architects, who co-volunteered with Butler, said, “Architecture incorporates aspects of art, science, math, and history. The Hip hop Architecture program is a fantastic way for students to see how all these separate elements come together into a singular vision.”

The 2019 camp session targeted ninth graders currently enrolled in the SEI program. Throughout the week, students participated in a variety of activities including physical modeling, digital modeling, writing, rapping and video production. Guest speakers and volunteers presented overviews of both the design and music professions and guided campers as they developed city designs and raps about the built environment. Special guests for this camp included Wilson Smith, Senior Designer at Nike, Terrance Scott aka Cool Nutz, Antoine Stoudamire aka Madgesdiq, and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Claire Blaylock, Executive Director for the Architecture Foundation of Oregon commented about TVA’s involvement saying, “We are so lucky to have an amazing level of support from TVA. Having both Mandy Butler and Pam Saftler donate their time and energy to program was amazing because they are both such leaders in the community.”

Camp participants camp to the table with enthusiasm and plenty of their own ideas to contribute. Students were introduced to some of the tools, strategies and processes used by both architects and musicians in their daily work, were able to practice through the camp activities, and were encouraged to apply what they learned outside of camp. With a bit of encouragement, the nearly 40 campers shared their experiences living in Portland and quickly began to see how design shapes the world around them and how they might affect change.

“I loved the time that I spent translating a song verse into a cityscape with Renasia and building that same 3D cityscape digitally in Tinkercad with Destiny, but the most amazing part of the experience for me was the day that the kids wrote their own raps about the built environment. The ideas that they explored were deep reflections on the current state of our society and ranged from gentrification to homelessness. Their thoughtful insight shook me, but also gave me hope for the future,” said Butler.

Blaylock said, “Mandy and Pam developed a real connection with a number of the students, especially around working on technical elements of navigating Tinkercad. Watching the one-on-one interaction was great because you could really see the students getting excited about designing and building their structures. I think their eyes were really opened by the experience!”

TVA Architects is a supporter of community engagement programs and is a member of Partners in Diversity. They have also participated in various charitable, community events. These events include:

  • Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO) – Architects in Schools (AiS) (a program that aims to introduce the youngest Oregonians to the concept of the design process).
  • University of Oregon Student Shadow Mentor Day

TVA staff regularly attend OAME meetings, support the ACE Mentor program, and volunteer at several local non-profits, such as the Oregon Food Bank.

TVA is proud to be a supporter of The Hip Hop Architecture Camp® and its use of music as an engagement tool for designing.

“I’m so glad that I was able to participate and share that experience with them. I’m certain that I benefited as much as any camper. I’m looking forward to next year,” said Butler.

The TVA team hopes that through their support and participation in Hip Hop Architecture Camps a greater diversity of students across a broader spectrum of race, gender and socioeconomic status become interested in design, and chose to pursue a career in the architectural profession.

As Michael Ford has said, “Designing a better future means we must acknowledge who has not been involved in the past. We must diversity the profession by improving access, relevancy and inclusivity.”

Image by Mandy Butler