Designer Michael Ford highlights Hip Hop & Architecture

An instructor in architectural technology at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisc., Ford brought his message here last week at the invitation of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

He lectured at Rustbelt Reclamation, which makes furniture from recycled wood, and spent part of Friday urging students at John Hay High School's program in architecture and design to stick it out and become professionals.

"The students that I'm talking to are the people and the bodies and minds we need," Ford said. "They are needed, not just wanted."
An unbuilt, conceptual design of low income housing by Michael Ford.

Through his writing, teaching and national speaking, Ford aims to dissolve barriers that have discouraged black children from becoming architects, city planners and urban designers.

He has a book coming out soon on the need for diversity in the design professions, and the damage caused by modernist slab towers forced on minority neighborhoods after World War II that fostered crime and social isolation through design.
Ford thinks that Hip Hop culture, from rapping to break dancing, is
the ultimate critique of mid-century modern vertical slums, and one that could be translated positively into new buildings and city plans.
Michael Ford created a limited edition modern furniture line, "Remixed," based on Detroit clothing designer Al Wissam's high stitch count leather designs.Courtesy Michael Ford

"Hip Hop is the voice of the voiceless," he said. "It gives a story to people not commonly listened to, including people such as myself."

While African-Americans such as Cleveland's Robert P. Madison have surmounted racial barriers to become an architect, the profession remains generally off limits to blacks, decades after the Civil Rights era.

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