Hip-Hop Architecture is HERE!

By Eric West, AIA Minnesota President

AIA Minnesota is working very hard to expose a wider audience to the value of architecture and design, and to create a more diverse and inclusive discussion about the built environment. We are working to encourage young people to have a voice and to open their minds to the potential of becoming an architect, which can help them shape their communities to reflect their values.

Sharing design ideas can be difficult for some. Putting your ideas and opinions on the table opens the potential for critique. The easiest path is to keep your head down and go about your work, to avoid pushing yourself into new territory – but that is not a path that leads to growth. There is great value in exposing ourselves to new ideas and to trying new things.

Recently AIA St. Paul—with sponsoring support from several other organizations, including AIA Minnesota, AIA Minneapolis, and MAF—took a calculated risk by hosting the Hip Hop Architecture exhibit at SpringBOX! as our first Center for Architecture “pop-up” event. The exhibit had a great run at the Center for Architecture in New York, was met with critical acclaim by the architectural press, and showcases 25 architects and artists from across the world, including the work of local, award-winning architect James Garrett, Jr. and the firm 4RM+ULA.

None of that was the risky part. It was a risk because we did not know exactly what it would take to make it happen; we’d never done an exhibit of this nature before, much less in such a unique venue (the garage of a long-abandoned auto dealership).

While the effort to get the exhibit installed may have been greater than we projected (a big thank you to curator Sekou Cooke, James Garrett, Jr., the staff team, and the many, many volunteers who made it happen), the results so far are exactly what we hoped for: great attendance at kickoff events, many ideas exchanged,  and work exhibited that challenges the dominant narratives of what architecture is and can be. It is inspiring for me to see the work we do in a new way. Kudos to the organizers, the sponsors, and everyone who made this idea a reality.

Expanding access to our profession adds value. Expanding the conversation about the relevance of architecture also adds value. Creating a forum for that expanding dialogue will be a focus for AIA Minnesota in the short and long term. We continue to work hard to determine the best way to give form to that dialogue as we consider developing activities and spaces that will lead to a center for architecture and design in Minnesota. I encourage you to join in that conversation and we encourage you to go and see the Hip Hop Architecture exhibition running weekends through June 15.

If you are moved by this exhibit, spread the word! (And we could always use another volunteer…)

View the full May issue of Matrix.