Overlapping Structures: The Life of Pablo and the Building of Rem-Ko.
The artwork (by the Belgian artist Peter De Potter) for Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo is highly reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ building De Rotterdam, which was completed in 2013. Both the album artwork’s typography and the building’s structure use the same formal proposition: three interconnecting blocks whose repetitive components are shifted and overlapped to create a jarring and fragmented edifice. There are references to the highly personal, too. On the cover of The Life of Pablo, it is through the inclusion of what is presumed to be a wedding portrait of Kanye’s parents, and for De Rotterdam, it is in Koolhaas paying homage to his birthplace – the Dutch harbour city of Rotterdam. Another similarity is the cinematic suggestions. The album’s name sounds like a working title for a film project, and Koolhaas, who once considered a career in film, reasoned that the most prevalent view of De Rotterdam’s three fractured towers would be in motion, thus proposing the building as a moving image.
West worked with Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 2012 on the setting for an ostentatious seven-screen cinema for the premiere of West’s first short film Cruel Summer at the Cannes Film Festival. In a documentary about Koolhaas, made by his son Thomas, Kanye describes working with OMA: ‘I just like that fact that I was able to take my position as a musician, as a rapper and as a celebrity, and be able to invest in a project with a company of that level.’
Despite Kanye proclaiming his seventh studio album is gospel music, given this superficial analysis of the visual similarities between the album’s cover and De Rottedam’s structure, one can’t help but think that both of these projects are hardwired to their creators’ earlier, and now broken dreams – Kanye’s of being an artist and Rem’s of being a filmmaker. As Kanye points out in the previously mentioned interview, ‘music has really been a Trojan Horse to create art again.’