Kanye thinks we'll all be living in dome-shaped pods soon

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Kanye West says he isn’t much for talking. “I think words are one of our lowest forms of communication,” he told GQ’s editor-in-chief Will Welch in late January. “We get so wrapped up into words. We got to make things that are speechless. We have to make things that leave people speechless. We have to make things to the level where no one can say anything.”

West’s spiel was in response to Welch saying at the top of their interview: “I’m going to start recording, cool?” He may have no respect for words but the man loves to talk.

GQ’s May 2020 cover story on “Kanye’s vision for the future” consists of four separate lengthy interviews conducted with the rapper over the course of five weeks, in three different countries. And it is long. More than 9,000 words long. But if you’ve been wondering what’s been on Ye’s mind lately, or what he’s been up to on his 4,000 acre ranch in Cody, Wyoming, the story has answers.

Kanye West with his matte black tank on West Lake Ranch outside Cody, Wyoming. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell for GQ

To put it simply, West is prototyping massive, sustainable earthen dome houses on his property with the help of world-class architects, artists and designers. He’s been designing uniforms for the hundreds of staff who’ll eventually keep his pod complex running. Ye’s also been working on a new Jesus-centric rap album. West Lake Ranch is his laboratory, and GQ notes he refers to it both as a “Yeezy campus” and “a paradigm shift for humanity” over the course of their interviews.

A few years ago, Kanye made waves in the art world for buddying up with legendary light-and-space artist James Turrell. West encountered Turrell’s work a couple years ago and thought, “We need to build a home where every room is a Turrell.” He visited Turrell’s epic land-art masterpiece called Roden Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona, which sparked the idea for a new kind of totally sustainable dome-shaped dwelling, completely devoid of corners or stairs, with massive Turrell-esque skylights for natural illumination. It’s also perfect for skateboarding. “That was the original brief for this house: It has to be completely skateable,” West told GQ.

Last year, Kanye and his design team constructed temporary plywood dome houses on a 300-acre parcel of land in Calabasas. The Kardashian-West family ate dinner in one of them every day for a month or two, then the domes were demolished last September. “A big misconception is that the city made me tear down the domes. We were only making them to experience the proportion and fully planned to tear them down,” West said, adding the story got twisted by local bureaucrats to make him look small.

“Like all of California, they got in front of the story. To say, ‘Oh, we took Kanye and tore down his domes.’ And you know, metaphorically, that’s what people have been trying to do since I was little. But as we can see now, they have not succeeded,” West said.

A rendering (top) of a dome-shaped home to be built at West Lake Ranch, by Claudio Silvestrin and Kanye West. A schematic (bottom) detailing a proposed dome layout. Via GQ

There are a lot of outlandish details to unpack about GQ's May/Ye cover story. Like Kanye's fleet of matte black vehicles, including at least three Lamborghini Urus, an "army" of Ford F-150 Raptor pickup trucks, ten Russian-made SHERP ATVs, and a massive military-grade tank. West posed on the tank for GQ's cover shot.

There's the fact that Kanye still has a penchant for incoherent ramblings when it comes to issues of slavery or politics. Welch skirts these touchier subjects with West but doesn't dig very deep; this profile is about getting access to Ye's inner sanctum, not a salacious sound bite.

It's a weird moment to drop a jet-setting account of a billionaire's vision for the future, when most of us are stuck at home in dwellings that probably don't feature a built-in James Turrell. And yet, out of all the things Kanye could be doing out there on his ranch in Wyoming, inventing a new type of aesthetically pleasing, sustainable, skateable housing isn't the worst idea in the world.

Eventually, lots of Americans could wind up living in Yeezy-designed housing. The idea is to perfect the domes on West Lake Ranch and then “to discuss how we can prefabricate and produce them in a sensible way, just like Kanye does with the shoes," Yeezy architect Malek Alqadi told GQ.