A novel hardware architecture for memetic vector quantizer (VQ) design is presented in this paper. The architecture uses steady-state genetic algorithm (GA) for global search, and C-means algorithm for local refinement. It adopts a shift register based circuit for accelerating mutation and crossover operations for steady state GA operations. It also uses a pipeline architecture for the hardware implementation of C-means algorithm. The proposed architecture has been embedded in a softcore CPU for physical performance measurement. Experimental results show that the proposed architecture is an effective alternative for VQ optimization attaining both high performance and low computational time.