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Another gold record, metaphorically speaking, for the Hip Hop Architect.

Michael Ford’s Hip Hop Architecture Camp, which started at the Madison Public Library in February and has travelled across the country, was named the Top Innovator in Race and Social Equity by the nationwide Urban Libraries Council yesterday.

Huge award,” said Ford, an instructor of architecture at Madison College. “It was for the Race and Social Equity, and there was a number of other great programs that Madison Public Library was up against, but we pulled it out.”

The camp brought middle school and high school youth together to reimagine their communities through the lens of hip hop. The youth built their own model community that reflects their priorities and dreams for their community. Members of the City of Madison’s Planning Department were on hand and pledged to incorporate what the youth had to say in the City’s long term development plans. Some of the youth also produced a song and music video about the process called “Build It Up”.

One of the youth in that video is now considering a career in architecture as a result.

“When he was teaching it, he wasn’t just teaching about building. He’s also teaching about the history of hip hop, and how it related to architecture itself. I found that to be very interesting,” said Khadisah Murphry, now a junior at Madison West, who attended the Madison camp in February. “Before the program, I didn’t necessarily think Architecture as a career. I was thinking more like, ‘I need to make money. Let me try to be a doctor,’ kind of thing. But during the program, it was very interesting to me because when he said hip hop and architecture, I was thinking about back at home in Chicago. And how the history of how the buildings were built, and the history of those buildings. When the program was over, I was thinking, “Ooh, this is really something that I should look into,” because I like to draw, for one. I love history, so those are two things I would definitely like to do. It was something there that just made me want to do it.”

Murphry said she’s looking into architecture programs at both Madison College and UW-Milwaukee and feels she could, like Ford, bring something new to a profession that is almost entirely white.

The Urban Libraries Council honor is the just the latest round of national attention Ford’s program has received. It’s been featured in national media and Ford has run camps in Los Angeles, Houston, Austin and Detroit. In the upcoming year the camp will be run in Tempe, Arizona; San Francisco, California; Sarasota, Florida; Baltimore; Boston; Detroit; Toledo; Portland; Toronto; and, of course, Madison. Registration for next summer’s Madison camp will open in February.

Ford said his goal was always to take the camp national, but it grew faster than he expected.

“Because of the passion that the students brought and people like Rob Dz and Michael Dando who helped organize the camp here in Madison, the passion that they brought to it and that video that was produced, to me, that’s what really got a lot of people excited,” he said. “I had the goal of going across the country and doing this for other communities, but not at the rate at which it grew.”

The camp was one of about two dozen nominees for the Urban Libraries Council honor, which will be officially awarded on December 5 during a Madison Common Council meeting.

“I’m inviting some of the students who participated in the camp and their parents because this is an award that us and the library have won, but we couldn’t have won it without the kids who put in the work and without the City Planning Department being willing to try this new way to reach people that they’re not reaching through their normal planning processes,” Ford said. “My hope is to have as many people there as possible because it truly was like a community initiative. The City being willing to take a chance and the library being setup to accommodate something unique like this with their music studio, and the kids and their genius.”

 

Written by Robert Chappell

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