"The world can be saved through
design" says Kanye West

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Kanye West at Harvard Graduate School of Design

News: rapper Kanye West has continued his architectural manifesto by telling students at Harvard University that "everything needs to actually be architected".

West and fiancé Kim Kardashian made a surprise visit to the Harvard Graduate School of Design studios on Sunday, where the rapper jumped on a desk in the studios and addressed students about his passion for architecture and his design company DONDA.

"I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be architected," said West. "And this is the reason why even some of the first DONDA employees were architects that started designing T-shirts instead of buildings. But just to see the work be actualised."

Kanye West at Harvard Graduate School of Design
Kanye West at Harvard Graduate School of Design, photo by Kim Kardashian. Main image by Justin Gallagher

"I believe that utopia is actually possible," he continued, blaming leaders and politicians for the fact that it hasn't been achieved yet. He offered words of encouragement to students and praised their "willingness to learn and hone [their] craft". He also presented them with 300 tickets to the Boston leg of his Yeezus world tour.

This appearance comes after the rapper told presenter Zane Lowe that he is "working with five architects at a time" during an interview on BBC Radio 1 in September. West is currently collaborating with graphic designer Peter Saville to create a new visual identity for the rapper's brand.

Architecture blog Archinect published a full transcript of the rapper's speech at Harvard:


Kanye West: ...So after walking through here I decided that I wanted to make sure for anyone that didn't have tickets tonight that you all could have tickets to the show. So anybody who wants to come tonight, you can have tickets for the entire office!

But I just wanted to tell you guys, I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be "architected". And this is the reason why even some of the first DONDA employees were architects that started designing t-shirts instead of buildings. But just to see the work be actualised.

If I sit down and talk to Oprah for two hours, the conversation is about realisation, self realisation and actually seeing your creativity happen in front of you. So the reason why I turn up so much in interviews is because I've tasted what it means to create and be able to impact, and affect in a positive way.

And I know that there's more creativity to happen. And I know that there's traditionalists that hold back the good thoughts and there's people in offices that stop the creative people, and [who] are intimidated by actual good ideas.

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. 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.

I'm very inspired to be in this space. Tonight, this show, if you come see it - um, I'm a bit self conscious because I'm showing it to architects. So the stage does have flaws in it. It's an expression of emotion so give me a pass on that. And that's basically all I have to say so thank you very much.

  • JR

    “Architected”. No.

    • cowbells

      That was my initial reaction. I looked it up though. It is correct. Even though it pains me to say it!

  • marten

    He’s obviously new to design.

    • dick_c

      But quite rapped.

  • stutelf

    Ah bless him, he stood on a table and everything.

  • KT

    OMG, go to university, study 5 years of architecture and then 5 years design, and then we can talk buddy!

    • doctorfloyd

      Perhaps. But it seems all that does is instil a level of pretentious egotism, with a large helping of elitism.

      • Emily

        He already has the pretentious attitude of an architect, so I guess he can skip that subject.

      • Nat

        Indeed. This is what I think when I see my fellow students doing Part 2. I was happy to leave after Part 1. Too much BS in education.

  • Chris MacDonald

    What an absolute tool.

  • h

    Isn’t it nice to feel appreciated? Why are you people so negative?

    • Chris MacDonald

      This person has done absolutely nothing to earn the design world’s respect. Respect is earned, not given.

      • doctorfloyd

        The design world seems to do very little to earn respect, too.

      • Nick

        Like it or not, he’s produced a number of hugely varied and exciting albums of music. Let’s not underestimate the creativity needed to do that. And if anyone wants to say that his music is rubbish, there are millions of album sales that say otherwise.
        He can be a rather odd individual, however we’re talking about talent and that is something he has.

        • gaaw

          Hey Nick, this is where the design / architecture world differs from the “chavy” world of music. I don’t say you can’t find good music but the good music is not reflected in the number of records sold. The architecture is not reflected in the number of average houses in the world, so I do agree with Chris on this one!

        • Chris MacDonald

          It is a rather moot point really, given that music isn’t architecture, no matter how tenuous a link you care to make. I make music and don’t for one second think that makes me a good designer.

          When he has done something to garner some respect, then he shall have it. Anybody, and I do mean anybody can launch into a tirade about government, and how they can envision a utopian society, etc.

  • mlk

    Haha, he’s such an adorable kid :) jumping on a table, shouting about his dreams.

  • Guest

    “Yo Harvard, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Yale has one of the best master programs of all time… One of the best master programs of all time!”

  • JimmyF

    Maybe not the best worded speech but it’s pretty valid and encouraging to hear continued ‘praise’ for our profession from someone of his stature.

  • Slow news day

    How pathetic. If he didn’t have millions in the bank nobody would take this seriously, if anyone is. How patronising for a group of students to have to listen to someone with no education in their subject talk to them as if they are a serious player. Lame.

  • Matt

    God help us. It’s bad enough that so many in the architectural community still believe in utopia and that it’s the architects who are going to deliver it.

  • Steeevyo

    “Dentistry can save the world! The world needs to be dentisted!”

  • Steeevyo

    I guess this is the only justification for Harvard’s astronomical fees. Who would waste money on their horrible graduate program?

    • valod

      Someone’s bitter.

  • Alan

    Most comments are missing the point. It’s not about his design credentials, rank, or seniority. It’s simply that we’re dealing with a celebrity who feels entitled to expound opinions concerning whatever discipline he finds attractive. Jumping on the desk is a theatrical and narcissistic move which attests to a confidence that is earned only by wealth and fame.

    • Tobias

      That is where the hate comments are coming from. No matter how wealthy or famous, in the end you have a critically respected musician showing enthusiasm for another profession. I don’t see a problem with this, but his narcissism gets in the way.

  • lullylux

    I find it unfortunate that Dezeen is turning out so sensationalist. Am I the only one to think that it did not begin that way?

  • Douglas Montgomery

    He’s got this wrong, surely. I’ve been reliably informed that the world will be saved through acting.

  • Binggeser

    O captain my captain. True, architecture students won’t be able to go to the concert cause they are working. All the scrubs will show up no doubt.

  • Douglas Montgomery

    I find this more reassuring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbuVa6GEJUg

  • Tony

    Small man.

  • pab

    Can’t say I’m surprised by the level of vindication in most of these comments. Many successful architects have no formal education (Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando, for example). Say what you will about Kanye’s naiveté, we’ll see what happens in ten years. He seems pretty focused – and has the ability to bankroll his own projects, which is more than you can say about most young design professionals. Let the jealousy flow through you.

    • Douglas Montgomery

      “has the ability to bankroll his own projects, which is more than you can say about most young design professionals”

      Yeah admirable, so he’s going to purchase his way to success in the design industry, a bit like every two-bit girl band member suddenly deciding she’s a ‘fashion designer’. As opposed to having to work your butt off at college, cultivate your talent, and take chances, hope someone notices, like ‘most young design professionals’ have to. Silly them finding the notion of a dilettante (who already has success elsewhere) telling them how to suck eggs and greedily attempting to steal their prospective thunder from under their nose, by dint of celebrity, just a little galling.

      Also, I think you mean ‘vilification’

  • Dan

    With an industry that continues to marginalize itself out of work, what’s wrong with a bit of free publicity from a globally recognized popular culture figure?

    Stop being so architectey and staring this gift horse in the mouth!

  • Dan

    Well..
    Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, Bee Gees ‘Saturday Night Fever’, Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumours’, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Whitney Houston… all best selling albums.. all insanely talented. This collection based on sales looks pretty good.

  • Marcel

    Kanye sells, poor architects don’t.

  • Soupdragon

    Quite a common word, plus architect and architecture is not with a capital a.

  • Mark

    So what has Kanye actually designed to be able to talk about this so freely?

    I’m not so bothered that he comes from a music background, so long as he can support his statements which at the moment he cannot. He may own a design company but it doesn’t mean he actively works on design.

    He sounds a bit like those old ‘innovation’ leaders preaching to the people stupid enough to follow tactics unproven.

  • ru
  • d d

    Kanye is Kenny Powers.

  • JayCee

    Harvard students are clearly dumb enough and sycophantic enough not to call him out. Zero respect.

  • Andy C

    “After Kanye West addressed Harvard design
    students about architecture, some readers appreciated his passion for the subject while others think he should stick to music.”

    Please Kanye, don’t bother with either.

  • Gabriel Villalobos

    See, I can’t help but compare this with Denise Scott Brown and Brad Pitt. On the one hand, Scott Brown has become a central figure for the debate around women underrepresentation in the industry, but as an architect herself she has produced groundbreaking theory and design that has become a legacy to the profession.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Brad Pitt started communicating his interest in design, and even embarking on design projects (published here by Dezeen), and yet the architecture community largely dismissed his interest and efforts as a celebrity who has nothing to contribute to design. Now with Kanye we also have a celebrity, who has risen to fame within an industry different from design, but whose input in design nevertheless is being considered in a similar way as Denise Scott Brown’s is, under a rhetoric of racial discrimination and inequality in our industry. I see this as very hypocritical. Yes, let’s consider Kanye’s potential contributions to discussions in design, in particular regarding inequality, but taking into account who he is and what his standing is with respect to our profession.

  • Max

    Have a Job!

  • http://www.theidlearchitect.com/ The Idle Architect

    Everything should be ‘architected’?

    • DH

      Yes, it’s a word. Look it up.

  • DH

    Well, most of you haters, and most of all towards potential patrons – maybe even clients to our cause, you should probably head back to the office for your bosses will be looking for you soon. You’ll find sometimes that the best clients are those who are a bit naive (we’ll say) but enthusiastic about design. Having +$150M to make these little projects happen don’t hurt either.

  • Noah

    I was skeptical when I heard about Kanye speaking at the GSD, even a bit incredulous, but what he said was actually pretty cool. Sure, he invented a word, whatever. He’s a well recognised icon espousing the merits of cultivating an audacious design culture. That’s a really good thing. He’s asking the general public to appreciate our work. That’s awesome. Yes, he’s a prima donna. Yes, the Kardashians are ridiculous. Whatever, it’s all the flavour of the month and is of little consequence.

    If he is able to open a couple people’s minds and to inspire both clients and designers to take risks and to expand the field, it’s really good news for us. Lord knows the AIA is never going to give the field publicity like this, they’re waaayy out of touch.

  • Dan

    LOL ah yes, granted many will buy crap. More just want to point out that high album sells doesn’t have to mean poor music :) The very best sellers usually are very good.

  • KayneTheBest

    Who gives a sh*t about Kayne anyway.