It may surprise some of our younger readers to learn that before Ice Cube was rich and famous, he used to be a rapper. (Rimshot.) And it may surprise our readership in general to learn that before he was a rapper, he studied architectural drafting. In this new video by Los Angeles arts campaign Pacific Standard Time, he speaks from the heart about his love for Los Angeles’ great buildings—especially the Eames House, longtime home of the pioneering American design power couple, Charles and Ray Eames.
Chales and Ray Eames were famous for their work with prefabbed materials, a medium they came to because of its availability to the general public. (Yes, you can probably blame Ikea on them.) And the Eames House represents the pinnacle of the married couple’s make-it-work, design-for-all ethos; though the plans for the building were published in 1945, wartime shortages kept the construction materials (all prefabbed) from being delivered in full until 1948. By that time, the Eames had fallen in love with the undisturbed valley they would build on… so they redesigned the entire building, working under the self-imposed constraints that they’d only use the materials at hand, and that they’d make a building in harmony with its surroundings. The result? The gorgeous, flowing house that Ice Cube tours in the video above, made using every stock window and wall called for in the original plans, plus a single extra steel beam.
“It’s not about the pieces; it’s how the pieces work together,” says Cube, alluding to the parallels in hip hop’s recontextualization of sampled music. “They were doing mashups before mashups existed.”
It’s easy to see how the Eames’ egalitarian, available-resources philosophy of art could spark something in a poor young artist from a resource-starved neighborhood. And hearing Ice Cube talk about it so plainly is pretty special, even if he does call us a “bitch” at the end (did you know he used to be a rapper?).
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