Hip-hop architect Michael Ford combines design and hip-hop to inspire a new generation of architects – June 2023

Hip-hop architect Michael Ford combines design and hip-hop to inspire a new generation of architects – June 2023

Leadership Focus: Hip-Hop Architect Michael Ford Combines Design and Hip-Hop to Inspire a New Generation of Architects – June 2023

Interview conducted by Kemp Haar

Raised in a musical family in Detroit, Michael Ford set his sights on a career in architecture at an early age, eventually attending the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and building a career in the field.

Using his success as a catalyst, Ford then set out to build a different kind of structure—a program through which underrepresented youth would be introduced to architecture, planning, and urban design. Ford’s Hip-Hop Architecture Camp has now welcomed 3,200 students in three countries.

Ford, the keynote speaker at this year’s NeoCon, will talk about the power of hip-hop to influence the next generation of architects and, through them, the landscape of our world.

Q: When did you decide to become an architect, and what led you to this decision?
I knew I wanted to be an architect at the age of eleven. Growing up in Detroit, like many others, I was initially exploring career opportunities in the automotive industry, with my original goal being to become an automotive designer. During this time I had the opportunity to attend a summer camp focused on automotive design, which was an exciting experience for me. However, as I delved deeper into the world of car design, I discovered that a new model of car is released every year, making previous designs obsolete. This realization was frustrating because I wanted my creations to have a lasting impact, something people could experience and appreciate for a long time.

During this period of self-reflection, I had a conversation with one of my camp teachers, who suggested I explore architecture as an alternative path. She explained that unlike cars, buildings are durable and can be designed to stand the test of time. Moreover, architecture provides the opportunity to design spaces that people do not have to pay money to experience, unlike cars that come with a hefty price tag.

This idea sparked my interest, so I delved into the world of architecture and began researching and learning more about this field. The more I learn, the more I become fascinated by architecture’s ability to shape our environment, impact communities, and improve lives. The idea of ​​creating spaces that can inspire and serve people for many generations resonated deeply with me.

Q: What challenges did you face in achieving this career dream?
One of the biggest challenges faced by African Americans pursuing a career in architecture is a lack of representation. Less than 2% of architects in the United States are African American. It is important to have a role model who looks like you. As the saying goes: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Q: Who are your teachers and what did they teach you?
While I have many professional and academic mentors who have helped me create and grow my practice, my most influential mentors are my parents. They embody resilience, dedication and making this world a better place. The most important thing my parents taught me was my strength. At a young age, they taught me that words are powerful and that everything I put behind me is real.

My father introduced me to playing music, his love of drawing and his profession, construction. My career reflects a combination of his talents.

Q: Do you have a favorite design project?
My favorite design project isn’t a building, it’s Hip Hop Architecture Camp, a project I’ve been designing for over two decades. It stands out because it is a unique approach not only to increasing diversity in architecture and design but also as a resource for young people to find and establish their own unique approach to design, which sets them apart from their peers.

My favorite architectural project is without a doubt the Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx, which will open in April 2025. This project is unique because it has allowed me to collaborate with hip-hop artists around the world to tell a living, rejuvenating and ever-evolving life story. Cultural phenomenon.

Q: How important is flooring selection in a particular design project? Do you have a favorite type of flooring?
Flooring plays a crucial role in creating the foundation and anchoring the design of a space. Just as the beats and rhythms of hip-hop music lay the foundation for creative expression, the choice of flooring sets the stage for the overall ambiance and functionality of a space. Although I don’t have a specific preferred type of flooring, I believe in choosing flooring that enhances the overall design concept and meets the functional requirements of the space.

Q: Tell us briefly about the moment that made you focus on Hip Hop Camp?
The realization that led me to focus on developing the Hip Hop Architecture Camp came through a combination of experiences. It began as a graduate thesis at the University of Detroit Mercy and developed through lectures and workshops. However, the turning point was the unexpected death of my son MJ3, moments before my wife was born. I had already planned to teach him hip-hop and architecture, and this tragedy turned that plan into a vision for children all over the world.

Q: What is the camp’s mission?
The Hip Hop Architecture Camp uses hip hop culture as a catalyst to introduce underrepresented youth to architecture, planning, and urban design. Hip-hop has historically given a voice to the voiceless, and design has the power to shape and uplift communities. Together we empower young people to create innovative designs for their communities.

Q: The core of your camp seems to be about turning words into structures; Tell us more about how this works.
During the camp we analyze popular music and the music we make ourselves during the program. We then extract the unique rhythms, patterns, textures and structures of hip-hop music and transform them into architectural elements such as rhythms, patterns, textures and spatial structures.

Q: You have partnered with Autodesk. Can you explain that partnership?
Autodesk has been a great partner for us. They were the first partners to help us launch the camp in eight cities. They have sponsored a series of camps, provided us with access to Tinkercad, and provided us with access to their facilities for curriculum development and professional workshops.

Q: I know you partnered with Gensler to help offset the cost of engagement. What other brands do you work with?
We have worked with a number of partners in R&D, technology and academia, including MillerKnoll and now Shaw Contract.

Q: The essence of this program is to blend music with structural design. What role has music played in your life, and have you had any formal musical training?
Music has always been an important part of my life. I grew up playing the trumpet in elementary and middle school. My family had our own jazz band, with my father playing guitar, my uncle playing bass, and the neighbors on drums and keyboard. Music has surrounded me since I was a child. She was featured in a documentary called “Trilogy of Songs, Stories of the Power of Music.”

Q: Can you share some success stories about the impact the camp has had on its participants?
More than 3,200 kids have participated in Hip Hop Architecture Camps around the world. We have offered young people internships in architecture firms to further explore their new passion. We offer a $10,000 annual scholarship to a graduate heading to college to pursue a degree in architecture, planning, or interior design. In addition to exposing K-12 youth to architecture, we offer travel stipends for graduate students and young professionals, allowing them to travel globally to explore architecture and teach camps.

Q: The college scholarship idea sounds great. How many of these have been awarded?
This year we are awarding our third college scholarship to a deserving student!

Q: Please share some statistics on how many students have been affected by this program.
By the end of 2022, we had received more than 5,800 applications from students for 2,800 camp spots over the past six years. We worked with over 356 volunteers, welcomed 25 celebrity guests and conducted camps in 30 cities in three countries. The most important number is zero, as our program is 100% free for participants.

Q: What do you do to relax?
With a three-year-old at home, relaxation is a luxury. However, for fun, we enjoy game nights, movie nights, and traveling.

Q: What is your main message to the audience at NeoCon this year?
During our keynote at NeoCon, Lupe Fiasco and I will challenge conventional perceptions of design and reveal a new source of inspiration for a rising generation of design professionals.

My main message to the audience at NeoCon is simple; Hip-hop culture has crossed boundaries, challenged norms and revolutionized the world of art, music and fashion. Let’s celebrate 50 years of hip-hop and welcome a new wave of design professionals who have been deeply influenced by this vibrant culture.

It’s time to jump in.

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus

Related topics:Shaw Industries Group, Inc

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