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hip-hop architecture camp

The Hip-Hop Architecture Camp took place at Madison's Central Library over four Saturdays in February. The work will be unveiled Friday night at Union South.

The Madison Public Library won a “Top Innovators” award from the Urban Libraries Council for its work with the Hip-Hop Architecture Camp. The camp, created by architectural designer and Madison College instructor Michael Ford, aims to increase the number of women and people of color in the urban planning and architecture fields while giving kids the power to design their own communities.

MPL took the top prize in the “race and social equity” category. Paul Guequierre, director of communications for the Urban Libraries Council, said members from nearly 150 library partners across the United States and Canada were eligible to apply for the award.

“The judges were very impressed with the Hip-Hop Architecture camp. It is so innovative, cutting edge, and really gets to the heart of race and social equity work,” Guequierre said. “It empowers young people of color to be active and participate in city planning.”

The Urban Libraries Council formally presented MPL with the award in October at their annual forum in St. Paul, Minnesota. Guequierre and ULC’s president, Susan Benton, will be in Madison to recognize MPL at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017.

Ford said the library partnership was a great fit for the camp given its facilities and staff. Central Library has a recording studio where resident hip-hop aficionado, Rob, “Rob Dz” Franklin, works with local student artists.  

“We had everything we needed at Central Library,” he said.

Guequierre said another factor in the win was the ability for other libraries to learn from the project and replicate it, a model Ford has pursued since the camp’s launch in Madison last February.

Ford and his partners have hosted camps in Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles and his hometown of Detroit. Ford already has camps scheduled in ten states and Toronto, CA for next year.

hip hop architecture (copy)

Hip-Hop Architecture Camp participants planned and built models of neighborhoods at the Madison Central Library in February. 

The one-week camp model recently expanded into a semester-long after-school curriculum for middle school students at sites in San Francisco and Oakland. Ford said his target audience for programming is middle school students because he wants to get them thinking about architecture at an early age.

“There are a number of programs that focus on younger students and high school students, but I noticed there is not enough programming for middle school students,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we get kids before high school since they have (more exposure to careers) by that age.”

Ahmad, 11, is a sixth grader at Kromrey Middle School in Middleton who participated in the Hip-Hop Architecture camp at Madison Central Library earlier this year. Ahmad said he learned a bit about architecture and how cities are built at school, but the camp helped him to see how he can participate in the process.

“The experience taught me about architecture, trying to make Madison a better place, and what I can do to improve my community,” he said.

Ahmad shared his idea, building a greenhouse to grow plants for local stores to generate more local food in his community, and he and his peers designed it at last winter’s camp.

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Ahmad’s idea and the innovations of the other students were documented by Imagine Madison, a Madison Planning Division campaign to collect feedback from citizens to use for future city planning and growth.

“We gathered a ton of input and had students create neighborhoods based on some of the initiatives identified in the Imagine Madison plan ... we are still providing them information that was produced by the students,” Ford said.  “The whole goal is to include those (student) voices...when the final report is produced, students can open it up and see how their work influenced it.”

Ford said he wants to expand the Hip-Hop Architecture Camp beyond the one-week curriculum at the library into programming at Madison’s middle schools.

"The model has been tested and the pilot is wrapping up, it is prime and ready to be implemented in other places,” Ford said.  

If the after-school program makes it into local schools, Ford has at least one willing participant.

"If he had a club here, I’d join,” Ahmad said. “He was really encouraging and a great mentor.”

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