LADF: Hip hop Architecture, participation, indirect impact and three sturdy pillars

Jaan Orvet
4 min readJun 30, 2023

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A strategy and design agency chooses to be either deeply involved (like our Manyone), or disengaged. Leading or following.

Leading means embracing a broader take on participation. Like at Los Angeles Design Festival at the end of June.

Almost everything the future holds can be predicted, expected, prepared for and contributed to by those who know where to look.

This is why our agency Manyone accepted an invitation to speak at the Los Angeles Design Festival (LADF). By accepting stellar opportunities to learn and contribute, we as strategists and designers are actively involved in shaping the topics, the future directions explored, while those who don’t will later only be able to follow.

The reason the LADF matters to us is that in the world of strategy and design there are no “local” projects. Every project is global. Why? Our — your! — influences originate globally.

Thus there are no better place to understand what’s next than the Los Angeles Design Festival. Or at Design Week Lagos, or similar events in Tokyo, Madrid, Sydney, and beyond. The “local” influences shaped there will reach us regardless of where we are, their relevance for true design leadership, is global. As is their impact on our client’s and their audiences.

Hip hop informs architecture

A relevant yet rarely referenced example of local-to-global is Hip hop Architecture.

My fellow speaker Sekou Cooke, architect and curator for the A+D Museum, illustrated the direct link between Hip hop music and evolving urban spaces, and how the music’s ethos influences architectural form despite its relative youth.

“All school’s of architecture take a long time to develop. Hip hop Architecture is only in its 30th year”. — Sekou Cooke

Firstly, Hip hop culture and music is regional. Think about the differences between US west coast and east coast or Atlanta Hip hop, or Dutch Netherop and Nigerian Hip hop.

This regional anchoring is also present in architecture including Sino-Portuguese/Peranakan in Malaysia and Vietnam, Neoclassical and its Jamaican and Nordic off-shoots, and many others.

Hip hop has from its beginnings also been “sustainable”. Making do, adapting, reusing. The connection to construction and architecture is obvious.

Finally, there are no truly blank slates. An architect has to build for and within an existing context like, say, a neighbourhood and its realities. A music creator draws from their context in, say, a neighbourhood and its realities.

When an architect in Paris or Chiang Mai is inspired by spatial design in Brooklyn, they are bringing the influence of US East coast Hip hop Architecture to their cities and citizens. When others see this and identify it as a signal, as an indication, of a potential shift they too might start participating. Contributing, even leading.

Indirect impact

Another key point is that of audience and impact.

Identifying people as an audience implies there are those who are not. Yet they too should be afforded the same consideration and attention.

Think about it this way:

  • The people who live or work in a new building are fewer than those who walk, cycle or drive past that building every day.
  • A music festival in a park affects those who happen to live next to it (noice levels, street closures) whether they want to or not.
  • Electric scooters and car sharing vehicles occupy space in our cities regardless if we as individuals signed up to use them or not.

Accepting the reality of indirect impact is key to understanding how things are connected. And designing accordingly.

At Manyone we aren’t foolish enough to think we can satisfy everyone all the time. But we are crazy enough (in the most positive sense of the word) to know that by understanding the indirect impact of our work we create things – physical, digital, other – that deserve their place among, with and near people whether they are the intended audience or not.

Pillars of design leadership

This is where my and our own contribution to this year’s Los Angeles Design Festival came in to the picture: The pillars that underpin design leadership.

The choice of topic was simple. The three pillars — insight, foresight and mandate — are born out of natural, intuitive ways of understanding the world around us, and living in it. It’s about understanding how things influence each other, how they impact businesses, people, places, even countries. And acting on it.

Read the full story on ’The three pillars of design leadership’.

In conclusion

Like most strategists and designers I believe in being as close to the multi faceted, complicated, joyous, difficult, exhilarating reality as possible.

When one participates — in different settings around the world — the connections become clearer, the signals can be heard through the noise and our work for our clients becomes stronger, even more relevant.

Local to global.

Leading, not following.

Above all, participating!

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the topis in this post. Feel free to comment here or reach out directly to me.

Our agency Manyone is a strategy-design hybrid with offices in 13 locations around the world. Visit us at manyone.com or follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Jaan Orvet

Partner, Global Strategic Design Director at Manyone. Co-host of podcasts 'design, Design, DESIGN, design!' and 'Dauer & Orvet'. Opinions my own. www.orvet.se