Leveraging hip-hop and hype culture, the talent booker–turned–preservationist angles to get more Black people engaged with, and influencing, design.

Jerald Cooper snaps a pic.

When Los Angeles–based entrepreneur Jerald Cooper started posting to Instagram as Hood Century, he didn’t have a specific agenda in mind; he just knew that he wanted his community to be more aware of their built environments. He noticed places like King Records in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio—where James Brown laid the foundations for funk, and subsequently, the outsize influence of hip-hop culture the world over—were falling into disrepair, doomed to become detritus in the wake of gentrification’s bulldozer. “People can see it,” says Cooper of the building, “but they can’t really see it.” 

Entrepreneur Jerald Cooper (center) recently spent a week in residence at Richard Neutra’s VDL House in Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in the lessons of good design. There, with company, he continued plotting a future for Hood Century’s preservation efforts.

Entrepreneur Jerald Cooper (center) recently spent a week in residence at Richard Neutra’s VDL House in Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in the lessons of good design. There, with company, he continued plotting a future for Hood Century’s preservation efforts. 

Photo by Phil Donohue

Since its inception last December, Hood Century (@hoodmidcenturymodern) has been magnifying the visibility of these cultural cornerstones (“Yes!! There is mid-century modern design in the hood!!” reads the Instagram bio). Cooper calls out neighborhood churches, Googie-style drive-throughs, and midcentury residences that hide in plain sight. Other posts—like one featuring musical artist Tyler, the Creator posing in front of a butterfly roof in Palm Springs—illustrate Cooper’s intersecting interests in music, fashion, and midcentury design.

@hoodmidcenturymodern has racked up more than 19,600 followers since last December.

@hoodmidcenturymodern has racked up more than 19,600 followers since last December.

Courtesy of Hood Century

Today, Hood Century has evolved from digital billboard to full-blown preservation society. Drawing on his experiences as an educator and talent booker—Cooper was planning appearances for Kevin Hart before we knew that name, and gives in-class talks with Jay-Z’s DJ, Young Guru—he’s drafting plans for a suite of materials meant to engage Black people more deeply with their heritage: an online journal, flash cards, a merch line (Neutra tees are dropping soon), talks, and zines are all part and parcel to the movement. 

This is just the beginning, says Cooper. We spoke with him on the heels of a week-long residency at Neutra’s VDL House in L.A. (where he was, unofficially, one of their first overnight guests) to learn more about what’s in store for Hood Century, why he wants to connect with actor Issa Rae, and the reasons he’s taking matters into his own hands to engage Black people with architecture and the built environment.

Cooper and his friends conceptualize architecture and design flashcards that will soon be available as part of a collection of upcoming materials meant to spread awareness about the built environment.

Cooper and his friends conceptualize architecture and design flashcards that will soon be available as part of a collection of upcoming materials meant to spread awareness about the built environment. 

Photo by Phil Donohue

See the full story on Dwell.com: Hood Century Founder Jerald Cooper Is Harnessing Instagram Clout for a New Preservation Movement
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