This past spring I was honored to participate in and be a presenter at the Words, Beats, Life inc. Hip-Hop each-in, in Washington, DC. This teach-in was a whirlwind for me. It featured some of most inspirational hip-hop scholars who shared their hip-hop knowledge, passion and inspirations, and the way they are using hip-hip as a venue in their careers and beyond. WBL is a non-profit that promotes hip-hop as “a vehicle to transform individual lives and communities through hip-hop” (wblinc.org) I was first introduced to the WBL initiatives by Kevin Coval back in 2011 in Chicago when I working on my graduate thesis at The School of the Art Institute on Hip-Hop Architecture. I attended a teach-in that spring that which was similar to the one I participated in this year.
As a continuation of the great information I was able to gather and the interest that was expressed in the concept of Hip-Hop architecture, and even design. I have decided to continue my efforts to explore and define what being a hip-hop architect entails, who came before me and what this means for the future. In the coming months I will be collaborating with Michael Ford, of BrandNu Design, on some writing projects that further explore the concept and exploration of hip-hop architecture. The first thing we are exploring is building a database of anyone who has dove in, or is diving into this subject. As one of the preliminary information gathering activities we would like to get feedback from anyone who has interest in hip-hop as an architectural or design style.
This past May I had the opportunity to participate in a Habitat sponsored AmeriCorps event in Seattle, Wa. For one week the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Seattle, Kings County, hosted numerous AmeriCorps volunteers from across the country to join together and get things done for America. This is a yearly event know as Build-a-Thon, and it is definitely one of the most exciting events of my service term. Not only did I get to travel to the wonderful west, I also had the opportunity to partake in some strategic formwork building and an intense concrete pour! Now… I have helped pour concrete foundations before… but nothing quite like this! The Habitat affiliate in Seattle used the AmeriCorps forces to assist in 3 different projects, I was on the team responsible for ensuring a multi-unit town home doesn’t… well… fall down. Exciting! And messy! I was ready though 🙂
Constructing the formwork took a few days, but the concrete pour took only an afternoon. It took me back to my glorious construction days, and reminded me of how the building processes are an intricate part to the vitality of our constructed world. Along with hundreds of other AmeriCorps members who serve with Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the country, I help build homes, communities and hope. Habitat for Humanity, who is one of the largest homebuilders in the country, relies heavily on the AmeriCorps members to complete projects like this everyday and help make the possibility of homeownership available to a multitude of families. Because of volunteer efforts as a whole, AmeriCorps and beyond, homes are more affordable for Habitat homeowners and their families.
Despite the rain… everyday… a long day on site was complimented with evenings of site seeing and overeating. Who knew Seattle was full of great touristy things to do?? I made sure I made it to see some architectural gems, including the public library by Architect Koolhaas, and The EMP by Architect Gehry. Felt good to see a building that makes your heart flutter…
I recently re-visited my sketch book from my Thesis graduate work and decided to see if it actually made sense. It’s been about 2 years (wow) since researching, thinking, designing and completing(kinda) this project. I must admit I was a little worried that taking a step back and now together would expose some major flaws and “what was I thinking” moments, but instead it sparked my interest to dig a bit deeper and expand my knowledge not just on what my concepts were, but also how to widen the spectrum of my arguments and seek out further what could be if architecture’s purpose was to act an empowerment tool. Exploring and connecting the dots of cultural identities and the links to communities in which these identities are presumed, developed and nurtured. (sometimes properly, but mostly inappropriately)
So what can this all mean? Stay tuned as I will attempt to keep blogging about this theoretical journey back to my views on what community development is and how my previous solution to city issues differs to my perspective now. Over the past year I have been invested in community development initiatives and am experiencing in real life the issues my thesis project addressed. How lucky am I? Very! 😉
My site analysis process was inspired by my daily commute from Forest Park (west suburb of Chicago) to the Loop on the Green Line L’ Train. Twice a day I observed the changes of the neighborhoods and became interested in the politics of why this was visible. I passed through the neighborhoods of Oak Park, Austin, Garfield Park, and the West Loop, witnessing moments of historical remnants, urban development/decay, and opportunities for growth and hope. In the map above the red rectangles represent the open spaces (almost all visible from the Green Line route) available for the spatial responses I am proposing. These responses can include public parks, urban gardens, amphitheaters, art centers, mural spaces, fitness parks, pavilions and other community common spaces that may influence a strong since of pride in the neighborhood where you reside, creating areas of improvisation, dialogue, empowerment, remembrance, education, expression and anything freestyle[d].
The site I chose was the intersection of Pulaski and Lake, West Garfield Park. I began by looking at how the site was used by the community in it’s vacant state, and expanded on that.
The goal of the architecture is to excite, inspire and support community members and serve as a unifying symbol of all the present assets and instigate new possibilities in the community. Providing a space for music, art, dance and other, this facility becomes a support system, cultivating neighborhood pride. The visual statement explores an hip-hop aesthetic that involves elements of adaptability, fluidity, reclamation, and transparency. My precedent studies included The Wall of Respect by various Chicago Artist, DeYoung Museum by Herzog DeMeuron, Fun Palace by Cedric Price, Ibirapuera Park by Oscar Niemyer/Roberto Burle Marx, Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss Manfred, and MASP by Lina Bo Bardi.
I feel my charge as a designer is to find the balance between user need, aesthetic quality, budget and environmental issues, and execute a design that satisfies it, with all people in mind. To pay the correct amount of attention to each aspect, understanding that the balance will be different for each design problem and user group, never expecting to retrofit the same solution for different clients. I have the ability to design spatial environments, and it is my goal to never forget this upper hand, and be considerate to those receiving services. A few things I value are fairness, user experience, many options, making more with less, and environment conservation. I like simplicity, and think that many things are to complicated, so design that portrays simple straight forward function, is an interest of mine.
The first step is sometimes the hardest, even when there is some motivation involved, getting the ball rolling is often takes much more than a light push. Procrastination… Life… Netflix… Hunger… Chores… Work… Sleep… etc… always seem to take up the time allotted to doing other things, in my case, job searching, but today is the day! With growing pressures from all directions, mainly from the parentals, something needs to shake soon! Goal setting, life planning, soul searching, motivation finding, passion proofing all sounds so fun, but so demanding, but so exciting. I wish I had my own little pep squad in my room to give me encouragement. I don’t… but I do have my own little voice from within, and that will have to do!