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The words 'hip hop' spray painted on concrete.

Hip-Hop Architecture: Street Rebellion Takes Over A Museum


An exhibition tells the legacy of the artists who created one of the late 20th century’s most important cultural movements.

Over the past 40 years, the urban landscape has been radically transformed. Graffiti, and murals made with spray paint aren’t just the code with which gangs identify their territories, but they’ve became part of the urban environment. Like the spray painting, hip hop music has left behind its gangster origins and become a cultural movement that unites communities around common referents.

Thus the aesthetics of hip hop can now be presented as an architecture, and as a proposal for the use of space in the exhibition, “Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture.” Curated and designed by Sekou Cooke for the Center for Architecture of New York, the show is open through January 12, 2019.

“We’re uncovering examples of people creating art, understanding, and changing the built environment using hip-hop as their primary lens,” says Cooke.

In “Close to the Edge”, visitors encounter the work of artists, designers, students, teachers, and hip-hop theorists who show the vitality of their aesthetic. This is achieved through a brief history of Hip-hop’s key elements: the work of DJs mixing records, MCs who improvise rhymes, b-boys who dance to the aggressive beats and, of course, the graffiti, which is already like any city’s second skin.

Within their presentation, the curator affirms that:

Hip-hop, the dominant cultural movement of our time, was established by the Black and Latino youth of New York’s South Bronx neighborhood in the early 1970s. Some 25 years in the making, hip-hop architecture is finally receiving widespread attention within the discipline of architecture.

It’s striking that some works within the exhibition have had to break the conceptual barriers of interior-exterior, such as a brick facade designed by the artist Delta. Originally created for a public housing project in Haarlem, in Holland, in 2013, it’s now on display in the exhibition.

In such a way, street culture opens the way for architectural recognition by changing the established paradigms of what is architecture, and what is art. The refreshing, innovative rebellion of hip-hop opens just such rebellion to ever new interpretations.

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