Kanye West is, according to Kanye West, a reformed man. After months of making headlines over his bizarre political views, he stated on Wednesday that, “my eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!”
While this most likely means a return to his music career, this statement could also indicate a renewed interest in his design projects. The rapper’s interest in architecture is more than just a passing one; he’s collaborated with noted architects such as Jacques Herzog and Rem Koolhaas and has declared on multiple occasions his desire for everything to be “architected.”
But where his approach to architecture is all high-end finishes, fashionable palettes, and famous faces, Sekou Cooke’s hip-hop architecture is one of inclusion, honesty, and identity - just like the music. His exhibition titled “Close to the Edge,” opened at the Center for Architecture in New York as part of the city’s ‘Archtober’ programming, presenting to the broad public a movement in architecture that’s been brewing for decades.
In an article published by Metropolis Magazine, Dante Ciampaglia reviewed the event, noting not just the energy in the works on show, but the breadth of what’s been a somewhat under-the-radar movement. The event has even drawn comparisons to Philip Johnson’s seminal exhibition on the International Style at MoMA in 1932. “This show [Close to the Edge], for me, is a historic moment,” Bergdoll said. “There’s a kind of vibe and excitement in the room that documents it. I hope [years from now] people will still be saying, ‘Remember that discussion at the Center for Architecture around the concept of hip-hop?’”
Regardless of whether the exhibition turns out to be a tipping point, it’s clear that attitudes in architecture are broadening - and it’s only for the better. In an interview published this week with Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, the architect - known best for his dream-like approach to practice - emphasized his belief that “Architecture from someone's imagination is not enough.”
It’s a statement that, on the surface, seems obvious. But so much of architectural inspiration and discourse seems to take happen in an endless scroll of Instagram-friendly collages. Flat geometries and muted pastels look beautiful in the backlight, but how do they fare in the harsher glow of reality? The complexity of real life is often less flattering than we’d like. Ishigami’s complex, layered, and strongly-researched architecture shows that even the most carefully engineered works can appear other-worldly.
Moving from talk (or image) to action and creating a 'freer' architecture, as Ishigami exhorts, is both increasingly crucial and increasingly possible, especially in the context of crises such as the environment. Architecture’s detrimental impact on the environment is well known, and ‘solutions’ to the problem are a dime a dozen. Emily-Claire and Erik Goksøyr’s “Paper Island” vision offers such a vision - with action. Their project uses converts plastic waste into a viable building material, mining the “natural” qualities of the raw plastic to create structures that are sustainable, recyclable, and beautiful. Though still early days, but the first prototypes of the project are being actualized with the organization Out of Ocean. It’s a promising first step.
One not to miss:
Talk was also transformed to action in Mexico City this week where, following a public vote promised during presidential election campaigning, the Foster+Partners and FR-EE airport project was canceled. While president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that the result is binding, doubts remain - not least because construction on the mega-project has already started.