Dept. of Arch. and NOMAS Host 2019 DC Hip Hop Architecture Camp Music Video Premiere

The Department of Architecture and the Howard University National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) hosted the 2019 DC Hip Hop Architecture Camp Music Video Premiere.

Architecture Senior and NOMAS President Renee Whiteley and Senior and NOMAS Vice President Kinshasa Campbell met Hip Hop Architect and Camp Founder Michael Ford at the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference in Chicago in October 2018. There they discussed holding a camp in Washington, DC, which resulted in the February 2019 camp. Whiteley and Campbell were honored to be among Ford’s first DC volunteers, along with other determined and community-serving fellow architecture students here at the Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture. Our students would also judge the camp’s infamous rap battle.

The 2019 DC Hip Hop Architecture Camp was held in February of this year at the District Architecture Center. Ford partnered with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) to offer the five-day event, which introduced underrepresented middle and high school students in the DC region to “architecture, urban planning, creative place making and economic development through the lens of hip hop culture. The Camp is based on the '4C's' which are Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking” ( The camp has exposed over 1,200 young people in 32 camps across three countries (the United States, Canada and Kenya) to this unique process of translating the rhyme patterns of hip hop music into built form.

The camp stems from Ford’s graduate architecture thesis at the University of Detroit Mercy in 2006 and his passion for hip hop music and, of course, architecture. That work evolved into the Hip Hop Architecture Camp. “During the camp, students are paired with architects, urban planners, designers, community activists and hip hop artists to create unique visions for their communities which include the creation of physical models, digital models and the creation of a Hip Hop Architecture track and music video summarizing their designs” ( Essentially, the participants learn the design thinking process particular to architecture education and practice. Camp participants write the song featured in the video during their week together.

The music videos all close with impactful text on the screen:


“Change the community. Change the lyrics,” expressed Ford, as he explained the concept of hip hop architecture and the early connection of black music to built form. He then provided an example of one DC camp participant who has dreams of building and owning a bakery in the Chocolate City (Washington, DC) when she grows up. It is believed that the architecture and landscape of inner cities can influence its culture and create greater opportunities for its residents.

Camp participants listen to hip hop music tracks to understand the complexity of the rhymes and perform an analysis of the lyrics and rhyme patterns. The rhyme schemes and rhyme structure give shape to the diagrams participants sketch and use to make building maps that can be 3-D printed -- and from which architectural structures can be built.

“Build it Up” was the camp theme, producing the following chorus for the music video:

Build it Up
Two percent
That ain’t what up
We gotta

The reference to “two percent” is the proportion of African American licensed architects in a total of over 100,000 architects licensed in the United States. One outstanding goal of the Hip Hop Architecture Camp is to expose young people to architecture in hopes that they will pursue a career in the field, and ultimately, “build up” the number of African Americans who are licensed to practice architecture.

And our favorite verse:

Building up one another, wouldn’t that be lit?

We say, absolutely!


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