Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still blog here once in a while.

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    Update - GSD African American Student Union and Dean Mohsen comment on Kanye West Visit

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Nov 18, '13 10:24 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,

    Over the past few days there have been over 30,000 views of this blog's Archinect post on Kanye, and many times that number of reposts and articles about the event at other media outlets (including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, USA Today, and Buzzfeed). It seems as if there's also been about that many critical comments online, within and outside of architecture circles. So if you're tired of the coverage, please disregard this post--I understand. 

    That said, I wanted to share this because as news has surfaced about the quiet leadership of the GSD's African American Student Union in this event, it has become clear that the media frenzy we've seen was just the gold-plated tip of a more substantive iceberg.

    Apologies for that analogy, but let's move on:

    At the GSD website a news release has been posted, including the following statement by the GSD's African American Student Union:

    The Harvard Graduate School of Design's African American Student Union wrote Kanye West a personal letter in response to a series of interviews Kanye delivered referencing his growing interest in design and his experiences with race as an artist in the United States. Very recently, we received word from Kanye West and his team stating that he would be in town for a concert on Sunday evening and that he wanted to meet with a very small core of our group's leaders with his security personnel and closest advisors in tow. Kanye led a very thoughtful conversation regarding the trajectory of design discourse and practice as well as the under-representation of minorities in design disciplines.

    Photo of Kanye West with GSD AASU. Photo credit: Kim Kardashian. Photo from ArchDaily.

    Dean Mohsen Mostafavi also commented:

    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.

    Let's put this in context. As Architectural Record has reported, "only 1,444, or 5.3 percent" of students in US accredited architecture programs identify as black or African American. And of over 100 000 registered architects in the US, fewer than 2000 are black, as architect and GSD student Sekou Cooke pointed in a recent ArchDaily essay. As Architectural Record notes, there are proportionally fewer black architecture students than black law or medical students, so we are doing poorly even in comparison with other fields that have long been confined to an elite few. 

    Nobody is claiming that the GSD AASU's coup of successfully inviting Kanye West solves the serious problems that contribute to this imbalance. But with this gutsy, optimistic, and outward-facing action that brought some public attention to the idea that design can change the world, and to the fact that there are talented and ambitious black and African American students shaking things up at the top-ranked US architecture school*--all while galvanizing the entire student body for one unforgettable night--this group of students made me proud to be an alum of their school. 

    Thanks for reading!


    P.S. Update on the update: If you just can't get enough, FYI that GSD students, including student leaders from the GSD's AASU, have been interviewed by Vibe about meeting and coordinating with Kanye.

    *the largest "class of color" in the GSD's history, the AASU announced at the beginning of the semester! As the LoeBlog points out, the AASU together with GSD Loeb Fellow Jean Lauer was also instrumental in reaching out to African American prospective students over the past year. The result? "For the first time ever this spring, all African American students offered admission to the GSD accepted." <3


    • @Donatello D'Anconia:  You can do better;  I have confidence in you-

      Nov 21, 13 3:21 pm  · 

      To All Minority Architecture Students:

      You're in THE MATRIX, just like the movie.  Do you want the red pill, or the blue pill?

      Do you want to know in advance what will happen to you after graduation, or are you content to fantasize in the protected environment of academia about becoming the next Frank Lloyd Wright? [yo, where my redlines at?]

      Nov 21, 13 11:31 pm  · 

      I like his music, but he's an idiot.  It's like Oprah giving away cars to her audience except in this case, it's 100% about Jeezus.  He does have an architects ego and penchant for simplistic political views so...sign his ass up!

      Nov 22, 13 6:33 am  · 

      an illuminati paty?  Sure wy not, have fun.

      Nov 22, 13 1:39 pm  · 

      Any questions?

      Nov 22, 13 9:41 pm  · 

      I think that Kanye is perfect to invite to an elitist architecture school. The man states that he is a "genius" without a second thought to how dumb that sounds. The only other people in the world that are that oblivious and full of themselves are starchitects.

      Seriously, why can't Kanye and all "genius" architects just shut up about themselves for a second and let their work do the talking. You don't see great Medical schools bringing in rappers to try to solidify their place in pop culture, why does architecture have to do it? Does the GSD really need to be featured in pop culture magazines in order to extend its reach, or can it just be #1 in the flawed arch school rankings in order to inflate its ego?

      Nov 25, 13 6:48 pm  · 

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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