Kanye: 'The world can be saved through design'

Artist speaks to Harvard architecture students

November 19, 2013

Kanye West popped into a Harvard Graduate School of Design studio earlier this week to talk architecture.
 
Yes, yes: West often comes off as a self-aggrandizing tool who beefs with presidents — and that's both Bush and Obama — and has frequent run-ins with the paparazzi.
 
But give him a listen here. West is smart, sensitive and has a feel for design; the creative process and the results those things should bring.
 
"I really do believe that the world can be saved through design and everything needs to actually be 'architected,' " he says in the video above made by Harvard GSD student Flavio Sciaraffia.
 
West visited the studio Sunday, on invitation from the school's African American Students Union, and gave students 300 tickets to see his show in Boston that night. 
 
"I believe that utopia is actually possible — but we're led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political," he told students. "So in no way am I a politician. I'm usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct.  I really appreciate you guys' willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation."
 
West's remarks are also another example of his (and hip hop's) interest in architecture and design.
 
"I want to do product, I am a product person," West told BBC1 a few months ago. "Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture ... I make music, but I shouldn't be limited to once place of creativity."
 
And if Ice Cube, the actor and former member of rap group N.W.A, still counts, two years ago he expressed his love for the work of American designers Charles and Ray Eames.
 
For years now, rap and hip hop music videos have often brilliantly documented the beauty and scale of urban spaces. Their desolation and abandonment, too.
 
One standout is the West-directed 2005 music video for Common's "The Corner." The minor masterpiece showcases Chicago's built environment, beginning with the places formed by those utopian ideals he talked about, and then travels to the spots where politically-shaped and contested spaces hold sway.
 
 
Speaking of contested spaces: Preservation Chicago, the Chicago Film Archives and Kartemquin Films tonight are screening three short and rarely-seen 16mm films that documented the demolition, change and tumult in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s.
 
One of the films, DeWitt Beall's "A Place to Live," was featured in this blog earlier this year.
 
The group will also show "Kali Nihta, Socrates," a short that looks at the demolition of the Greektown neighborhood in the 1960s and "Now We Live On Clifton," a documentary about two kids who fear — and rightfully so, as it turns out— that gentrification will force them out of their multiracial Lincoln Park neighborhood in the 1970s.
 
The screening will begin at 7:30pm at Comfort Station, 2579 N Milwaukee Ave. Admission is free. 
 
Lee Bey writes about architecture at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @LeeBey.