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Tatooine Under Fire
Kanye West's affordable housing prototypes may have to be demolished
Kanye West had big plans to shake up the development market with a new affordable housing community, but it seems like the dream might be short-lived. News of the project in Calabasas, California broke just last month, but TMZ, who also obtained first images of the development from a Los Angeles County Public Works inspector, is reporting that state authorities are threatening its demolition if West does not comply with construction permit laws by September 15.
West, who identifies with the pseudonym Yeezy, has demonstrated his interest in residential architecture and the housing market before, establishing the studio Yeezy Home and unveiling renderings of a stark concrete affordable housing complex in 2018. On a 300-acre forested plot of land in Calabasas, near West and Kim Kardashian’s shared home, his latest endeavor took a less conventional route. Writing for Forbes last month, Zack O’Malley Greenburg compared the prototypes for the development to Tatooine settlements from the first Star Wars movie, which in turn were inspired by vernacular housing design in Tunisia. While images of the interiors of the homes have not been released, it is clear from Greenburg’s account and photos shared online that they are igloo-like in form, with wooden skeletal frames “dozens of feet tall.” According to the photos released by TMZ, that description appears to have been accurate; they show rounded domes framed in timber and slightly sunken into the ground, with holes cut in the top to let in natural light.
Since the inception of the project, though, West’s foray into affordable housing has been mired in local controversy. At least two of his neighbors complained about construction noise, prompting state inspectors to pay the site a visit. While they were initially told that the structures were intended to be temporary and thus did not need a permit for permanent construction, inspectors later returned and noticed the homes’ concrete foundations. Concerned that West and his property managers were building something more lasting, they issued a citation last week that requires West to apply for approval from the city within 45 days or dismantle the buildings altogether. Although West and his team reportedly claimed that the foundations were simply added for increased stability, not longevity, it is unclear what West’s next steps will be.
Soulcycle for Your Life
What do architects think about Related Companies' Stephen Ross fundraiser for Trump?
Related owns a slew of properties in the United States, from New York to Miami, as well as in London and Abu Dhabi. Phase one of Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan’s opened earlier this spring to mixed reviews and is successfully attracting throngs of people who are spending countless hours and dollars shopping around the $25 billion site. The Shed, the transformative arts venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, was built on city-owned property and is not directly affiliated with Hudson Yards, but no doubt the recent news may rock its fall season of already-planned performances. In fact, one fashion designer, Prabal Gurung, announced he's canceling a show that was in talks to be located at the Vessel after hearing about Ross's ties to Trump. New York Fashion Week was supposed to be hosted at Hudson Yards in the coming years. Buildings aren’t necessarily something one can boycott or at least totally ignore. They are a basic human necessity and provide tangible shelter. But the towering monoliths at Hudson Yards weren’t conceived to shelter your average New Yorker. What’s done is done and Hudson Yards is here, and a number of prominent firms contributed to the project's first phase, including Kohn Pederson Fox, Skidmore Owings & Merill, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. The next few years of construction, set to start late next year, will see the build-out of designs by Gehry Partners, Santiago Calatrava, Robert A.M. Stern, and more by Heatherwick Studio. So this leads us to ask: Like Jose Andres, artist Jerry Saltz, and other figures who've laid bare their frustrations with Ross in the last 24 hours, will architects vocalize their political views and become part of this conversation?
I respect a person’s right to politically support who he chooses but these are not normal times!. So I ask u Steve Ross to use your conscience! Cancel this fundraiser for @realDonaldTrump You are a good man.Don’t support a candidate whose goal is to drive my beloved USA apart! 🙏 pic.twitter.com/mTMhCZsmzl— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) August 8, 2019
AN has reached out to a number of firms who’ve worked on Hudson Yards and will update this story when we hear back.
Statement from Stephen Ross: pic.twitter.com/nvn3pmAPVE— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) August 7, 2019