When most people think about architecture, the first image that they conjure up probably isn’t one of young, vibrant people planning out their communities while listening to hip hop music. Yet this is exactly the vibe at Hip Hop Architecture Camp, a nonprofit organization that “uses hip hop culture as a catalyst to introduce underrepresented youth to architecture, urban planning, and design.”

The camp was the brainchild of architect Mike Ford, who found a way to combine his love of architecture with his love of music while seeking inspiration for a thesis while completing studies for his Master of Arts in Architecture from the University of Detroit Mercy.

The goal of the camp is to find a way to use music, hip hop culture, and mentorship to foster the “4C’s,” which are Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking. During the week-long camp, students are paired with volunteer architects, urban planners, designers, community activists, and hip hop artists to create unique visions for their communities which include the creation of physical models, digital models and the creation of a Hip Hop Architecture track and music video summarizing their designs.

The camp typically takes place in about eleven cities throughout the country each summer with different volunteers from the architecture and local hip hop communities volunteering their time. This week, the camp is being hosted in St. Louis. Amongst the volunteers is music producer Alonzo “Zo” Lee, one-half of the Trak Starz production team, the team responsible for producing hit albums and tracks for artists including Ludacris, Usher, Chingy, and Britney Spears, amongst others. Lee, who spends much of his time educating others about the business side of the music industry, volunteered his time at this week’s camp in St. Louis. “I think it’s good to use hip-hop as a way to pull the youth in because they’re very interesting anyway. When that’s used as a tool to engage them, we can teach them other aspects of city planning, city development, what it means to be positive versus negative, and how things adversely affect our communities and how to make change,” he said in an interview with the St. Louis American.

For more information about volunteering or contributing, visit hiphoparchitecture.com.