Are You Familiar With ‘Hop-Hop Architecture’? See Examples of Style From an Illuminating New Museum Show Dedicated to the Movement

"Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture" is on view from October 15 at the Museum of Design in Atlanta.

Olalekan Jeyifous, "Shanty Megastructures Project (1 of 4)" (2015). Image courtesy of Sekou Cooke Studio.

This week, the Museum of Design in Atlanta unveils “Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture,” a survey of temporal, reactive, and improvisational architecture, designed by scholar and architect Sekou Cooke.

“Hip-hop architecture had been talked about and debated at Cornell University in the mid-90s, after the legendary thesis project by Nathan Williams,” Cooke told Artnet News. The curator has since written a book on the topic, hosted a symposium, and organized this touring show. “Close to the Edge” outlines the movement’s 25-year rise through facade studies, urban development proposals, installation strategies, and building designs.

While on the surface hip-hop and architecture might appear at odds—one celebrates spontaneity, the other relies on structure—the combination of the two is an “anti-style” design movement that riffs off the music’s playful pastimes: deejaying, emceeing, b-boy dancing, and graffiti.

Sekou Cooke. Photo: Michael Barletta. Courtesy of Sekou Cooke Studio

Cooke has identified three categories that are particularly important to the movement: Identity, Process, and Image. Together, he said, these categories hold space for “designers with deeply rooted, hip-hop identities, those committed to processes extracted from hip-hop elements, and reflecting an image that may somehow be tied back to aspects of public consciousness attributed to hip-hop.”

Designing the show specifically for MODA’s sprawling galleries, Cooke sought to create intimacy through wall text and sonic environments. He met the museum’s mandate for interactivity with a turntable feature “where visitors can manipulate 3D prints in action.” He has also expanded the traveling show’s “If Ya Don’t Know…” glossary wall with “historical images of hip-hop’s elements, grounding them back to a Southern context.”

Altogether, the show asks how call and response can become an architectural imperative, in the same way hip-hop and its entourage activities are all based on flow.

“Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture” is on view October 15 through January 29, 2023 at the Museum of Design in Atlanta. Take a sneak peek of the exhibition below.

“Close to the Edge” at the Center for Architecture in New York, late 2018. Photo: Erik Bardin, courtesy of MODA.

Ujijji Davis, The Bottega project (2015). Photo: courtesy of Sekou Cooke Studio.

Boris Delta Tellegen, Barlagelaan (2011). Photo: courtesy of Sekou Cooke Studio.

Wildstyle, a proposed new design for the Museum of Hip Hop in Brooklyn, New York by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students Jessie Christensen, Kate Greskoviak, Claudia Lu, and Michael Muchmore. Photo: courtesy of MODA.

ITN Architects, construction photograph from “The End to End Building” in Melbourne, Australia (2015). Photo: courtesy of MODA.

A view of City Thread by design duo SPORTS (Molly Hunker, Greg Corso), in Chattanooga, Tennessee (2018). Photo: courtesy of MODA.

Studio Malka Architecture, Bow-House in Heerlen, Netherlands (2014). Photo: courtesy of MODA.

Lauren Halsey, Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project (2016). Photo: courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

4RM+ULA Architects, exterior perspective rendering of JXTA Arts Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota (2010). Photo: courtesy of MODA.

Maurer United Architects, Zedzbeton 3.0, with Zedz, project poster (2002). Photo: courtesy of MODA.

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