Architecture, Hip Hop, and Utopia

Lawrence ChuaCNY Humanities Corridor Visiting Scholars Brownbag Presentation
Lawrence Chua (Hamilton College)
Brownbag Presentation: April 3, 2014 / Noon / Tolley 304 / SU Humanities Center

In 1972, Charles Jencks declared “the death of modernism” with the demolition of Minoru Yamasaki’s Pruitt-Igoe housing project (St. Louis, 1952-1955). The “vandalized, mutilated, and defaced” projects represented, for Jencks, the ways modernism’s utopian vision had gone astray and become paradigmatic of techno-bureaucratic corporate authority and efficiency. This project argues that, far from being dead, the struggle between modernism’s utopian dream and its co-optation was re-imagined by the inhabitants of American urban housing in the visual and aural culture of hip hop. Drawing on written, visual, and aural archival material, this project examines the ways that hip hop has re-framed modernism and investigates the ways that architecture is mediated, overwritten, and redeployed by its users. It brings a discussion of race to historical analyses of architecture’s engagement with mass culture as it was transformed by consumer capitalism in the United States during the 20th century.

Lawrence Chua is a historian of the modern built environment whose research focuses on 19th and 20th century architecture and urban development. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Asian Studies housed in the Department of Art History at Hamilton College. He received his PhD in the History of Architecture and Urbanism Program at Cornell University in 2012. He is the recipient of the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fund and was a Mellon Graduate Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University.

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