Kanye West Drops In on Harvard’s GSD

© Noam Dvir, Instagram User dvirnm

UPDATE: The GSD AASU has released a statement on Kanye West’s invitation and visit, which you can find at the end of the post. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the GSD, has also commented on the visit.

Kanye West surprised students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) last night by dropping in un-announced before his Sunday night concert at the TD Garden in Boston. He gave a short motivational speech to the crowd that quickly formed in the GSD’s signature “trays.” West told the students:

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.” [...] 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.

GSD student Sekou Cooke, writer of “Keep Talking Kanye: An Architect’s Defense of Kanye West,” confirmed to an ArchDaily editor that West had in fact seen his post defending West’s right to speak-up about architectural issues and act as a role model for young potential architects of color. Although his visit with the student body was unexpected, West had been invited by Harvard GSD’s African American Student Union (AASU). Following a meeting with the AASU’s core group of leaders—during which West led a conversation regarding under-represented minorities in the design disciplines—the star was inspired to briefly address the rest of the students. West also gifted 300 tickets to his show to the GSD. In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, West told the crowd of students:

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.

See images and video of West’s GSD visit, after the break…

Kim Kardashian snapped a photo of the AASU’s meeting with Kanye West. Image © Kim Kardashian

The GSD AASU released the following statement regarding why they met with West on Sunday:

This past summer, members of the ’s African American Student Union (AASU) were stirred by a series of interviews with Kanye West referencing his growing interest in design.

Mr. West’s very public frustration with the limits experienced by Black designers and artists energized and excited the group, prompting a series of internal conversations. Framing these discussions was the fact that only 1% of licensed architects in the United States identifies as being African-American. We discussed how this severe under-representation of African Americans in producing the built environment which have a range of effects upon our collective lives.

Subsequent to these discussions, the AASU decided to reach out to Mr. West.

We were tremendously excited that Mr. West, well-aware of these challenges, desired to meet us as well. This Sunday, he met with the AASU privately to discuss how we might pursue meaningful change together. Mr. West is an artist at the center of this generation’s cultural production and shares in our group’s optimism that transdisciplinary design practice can – as he stated Sunday – impact the world in positive ways. One of these ways is by encouraging the development and legitimacy of African American designers in their professional and academic practices. We are fortunate that the GSD has provided us with a platform in which this dialogue can occur.

We look forward to continuing this conversation with Mr. West, and through these efforts, we aim to catalyze a more inclusive design culture.

Sincerely,
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design – African American Student Union

Dean Mohsen Mostafavi commented on the visit:

We are thrilled that Kayne West decided to visit Harvard Graduate School of Design and has taken such interest in our students, their work and design in general. I share Mr. West’s concern that minorities are underrepresented in design disciplines. We hope that Mr. West’s visit will raise awareness of design education among students of color and will inspire others to recognize the important role of designers in re-imagining and improving the spaces in which we live.

A large group gathers in the GSD’s trays to listen to Kanye West’s speech. Image © Virgil Abloh, Kanye’s style advisor, Instagram User virgilabloh
© Jose Ramón Sierra, Instagram User joseramonsierra
Kanye West with Kim Kardashian in the lobby of the GSD. Image © Ken Chongsuwat, Instagram User kenchongsuwat

West’s entire speech can be found transcribed at Archinect. Story via Buzzfeed. Video courtesy of Flavio Sciaraffia.

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Kanye West Drops In on Harvard’s GSD" 19 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=449780>

15 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +14

    I would love to see this sort of enthusiasm for architecture gain traction in popular culture. Architects are no doubt going to lament his visit to the GSD; it is too bad we won’t be able to come together to celebrate this moment. Surely those negative/pessimistic personalities are doing nothing to get people excited about architecture.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +5

      Lament? It’s f’ing sweet.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    I agree Donatello … architecture should be a popular commodity and NOT an exclusive society. I want to be the first architect to go platinum.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    Aside from all the Kanye Stunts we’ve seen, I can appreciate Kanye for this. Architecture is an underrated profession for the amount of work and time that’s put into it. I hope he continues to support design and elevate all starving designers worldwide within the mainstream. Despite what others think, he’s doing Architecture a solid by recognizing power of design to help solve the ongoing problems in this world.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Yeeeah, Harward is the best school in the world, anyone can drop in and talk about everything…yeeeey…

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

      If you finished reading the article you would have noticed Kanye was invited by a student group. Archdaily is the best in the world, anyone can drop in and post about anything…yeeeey….

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    Hopefully this will kill all of the negative comments that arose from the last article. I extremely glad this article was posted and look forward to seeing a more positive exchange as it relates to his ideas and our ideas as architects and students.

    Let’s be mature and not make it about race or YOUR perspective of artistry.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    There has to be someone more respectable than Kanye West for the African American Architects to grab the coat tails of to be noticed.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    “In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment of insecurity, West told the crowd of students…”

    “We all self conscious I’m just the first to admit it”
    All Falls Down, The College Dropout, 2004.

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