Only 4% of registered architects in the US identify as black or African-American. Wisconsin-based Mike Ford of BrandNu Design believes that the (as yet largely unexplored) connection between hip-hop and architecture can act as a means for a new generation to get interested and involved in the field. At Co.Design, he talks with Diana Budds about his work on the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx.

By Diana Budds at Co.Design:

Ford noticed that while 1520 Sedgwick Avenue—the residential high-rise whereDJ Kool Herc, aka “The Father of Hip-Hop,” threw parties in the 1970s—was a historic address, it wasn’t adequately researched from an architectural perspective. Ford also points to “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and “The Breaks” by Curtis Blow as two songs that speak to the connection between environments and music.

“Grandmaster Flash is talking about a housing project, about living in squalor,” Ford says. “Architects thought they were producing the ‘best’ architecture that could liberate people, but they actually produced architecture that was stifling the growth of communities. I call those songs ‘hip-hop’s post-occupancy report of Modernism.’ They’re from people who lived in the community—it’s unfiltered, it’s direct, and it’s telling you about the failures of architecture and planning that did not think to consult the end users of their architecture.”

While Ford hopes the museum will become a magnet for people who are interested in hip-hop, he’s especially excited about the public plaza outside of the structure that will be revamped as part of the project. The design is based on the effect of drops hitting water, and it’s a metaphor about the ripple effect of hip-hop. “I call it ‘The Corner.’ It’s about giving the space back to the public, and it’s for people who may not have the means to come into the museum,” Ford says. “The museum celebrates elements that were small at one time but created these ripples around the world.”

This story was originally published on July 6th, 2016.