Revenge mansions? After divorcing Kanye West, Kim Kardashian becomes architecture ‘influencer’

The celebrity has ‘inherited’ her ex’s taste for great designers: she commissioned one house from Pritzker prize-winning Tadao Ando and another from Kengo Kuma, as well as a minimalist temple designed by Axel Vervoordt

Model and businesswoman Kim Kardashian, meeting with Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 81, the winner of the 1995 Pritzker Prize.
Model and businesswoman Kim Kardashian, meeting with Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 81, the winner of the 1995 Pritzker Prize.Instagram (@kimkardashian)

On an episode of the 12th season of Keeping up with the Kardashians, the family’s matriarch started talking to one of her daughters about her latest discovery: reading. Kris Jenner: “You know how I’m obsessed with books now? I’m reading one about Le Courvoisier (sic), an architect. It’s really weird and boring, but I’m obsessed.” Khloe Kardashian: “That’s not true. And you’re not reading a book. It’s not a real book.” Kris Jenner: “Well, it has words, important words.” Khloe Kardashian: “Oh, like ‘this building was built in I don’t know how many centuries’?” Jenner: “Yeah, it’s called history.” Khloe: “It’s a coffee table book!”

Seven years after this memorable scene, it turns out that the last name Kardashian could possibly end up appearing in some of those architectural coffee table books after all. Tadao Ando, the winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1995 (and a great admirer of Le Corbusier), has designed a house in Palm Springs for Kim Kardashian, the most famous of these very famous sisters.

Kim Kardashian recently posted a photo on Instagram of the great Japanese architect during a meeting in his Osaka office. Another picture shows a drawing of Kim Kardashian’s future home, an imposing concrete building that means—if Ando sticks with the architectural tradition of naming the houses they design by the last name of their clients—we might see Villa Kardashian in a book about his buildings.

“Met with the master himself, Tadao Ando to review and discuss a dream project we have been working on for the past two years, Kim Kardashian posted on April 6. “I visited his office in Japan so that we could make the finishing touches before we break ground. So deeply honored and incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to work with him and finally see this special project come to life.”

We know the project in question is a home because Kardashian told us so last year when she first spoke about it. In an interview with Vogue in February 2022, Kardashian said that Tadao Ando was designing her a house “[made of] concrete, [in] shades of gray and very zen.” Ando, Kardashian added in a subsequent Vogue article, had also been her model in creating her first beauty line: in the first image of the SKKN BY KIM campaign, the brand’s toner, cleanser and other products appeared among small blocks of concrete, the Japanese architect’s most iconic material. Ando sure didn’t mind. The self-taught architect, who began his career as a boxer, is familiar with the world of fashion and is well liked by lovers of minimalism like Giorgio Armani, for whom he designed the Teatro/Armani in 2001.

Kanye West bought a Tadao Ando house and left it in a state of semi-abandonment. Now, his ex-wife and the architect are new best friends.
Kanye West bought a Tadao Ando house and left it in a state of semi-abandonment. Now, his ex-wife and the architect are new best friends. Instagram (@kimkardashian)

What we don’t know is what Kanye West, aka Ye, thinks of his ex-wife’s project with Tadao Ando, but he was the one who discovered Ando’s work in the first place. In 2018, Kim Kardashian accompanied her then-husband on a trip to the Japanese island of Naoshima, which is famous for the buildings Ando began constructing there in the early 1990s. For West, who has been a fan of design and architecture since he was a child, the trip was a pilgrimage. There, he not only visited Ando’s concrete architecture but also the installations created especially for the Chichu Art Museum (one of the architect’s buildings on the island) by the American artist James Turrell, one of the rapper’s favorites. “We have to live in a Turrell,” Kanye West told Kim Kardashian during that excursion as he later recounted in an interview.

Three years later, in September 2021, Kanye West shelled out nearly $58 million to purchase one of the few Tadao Ando-designed homes in the United States, a 370 m² concrete sculpture-house located in the middle of Malibu beach. The house was built in 2013 and commissioned by another great admirer of Ando, American financier and art collector Richard Sachs, known for being the boyfriend of actress and The Row designer Ashley Olsen. “This is not just a house. This is like a Picasso Cubist painting, very important and very rare,” Sachs said three years ago when he put it up for sale.

Image of the house project that Tadao Ando has designed for Kim Kardashian, shared by the 'socialite' on Instagram.
Image of the house project that Tadao Ando has designed for Kim Kardashian, shared by the 'socialite' on Instagram. Instagram (@kimkardashian)

Unfortunately, it would now be more accurate to compare the home to a Dorian Gray-like portrait of Kanye West since it has come to reflect the recent calamities that have ruined the rapper. It’s not just that in December of last year someone hung a sign from the driveway wishing him a happy Hanukkah after his anti-Semitic statements, which represented the final nail in the coffin of his successful career. In recent photographs published by multiple media outlets, Tadao Ando’s building appears pitiful; since the renovation work—begun in 2021—was indefinitely suspended, the house has been stripped of its windows and abandoned to Malibu’s waves, wind and seagulls.

“Like the man now known as Ye, the Tadao Ando-designed beachside house was once imminently likeable, the epitome of artistic ingenuity,” the digital magazine Highsnobiety published a few days ago alongside a series of images of the rapper’s home. “Now, both Ye and his 4,000 square foot Malibu home have rotted from the inside out.” Kanye West got the property in his and Kardashian’s divorce settlement last year. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian was awarded the family home in Calabasas, California, a mansion valued at $60 million, which Kardashian and West bought shortly after the 2013 birth of their first daughter, North West. “We passed by this incredibly extravagant house while strolling through the neighborhood. I’d just had North, and we were doing a lot of walking so I could work off some of the baby fat,” Kim Kardashian recounted in a 2020 feature about the townhouse in Architectural Digest magazine. “I didn’t really know Kanye’s style at that point, but I thought the house was perfection. Kanye was less enthusiastic. He said, ‘It’s workable.’”

Architectural Digest's March 2020 cover dedicated to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Calabasas home.
Architectural Digest's March 2020 cover dedicated to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Calabasas home.Architectural Digest

To spruce up the McMansion—as West disparagingly called it—the rapper hired prestigious Belgian interior designer and art and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt, who is famous for his expansive, stripped-down spaces. According to the same Architectural Digest article, West met Vervoordt at antiques fairs in Maastricht and Venice, where the rapper tracked down treasures like the Jean Royère sofa for which he sold one of his Maybach cars after he became rich and famous. West’s infatuation with the Belgian’s work came when he saw a floating stone table designed by Vervoordt, which now graces Kim Kardashian’s immaculate living room. “When I saw the kind of work he was doing, I thought, ‘This man could design Batman’s house. I had to work with him,” Kanye West said in 2020.

The renovation undertaken by Axel Vervoordt transformed the ostentatious interior of the Calabasas mansion into a sophisticated succession of rooms painted in white, gray and beige. Vervoordt also came up with the idea of converting an old samurai house—which he purchased and transported from Japan—into the former couple’s guest house. Other design masters also participated in creating the main mansion, including Italian Claudio Silvestrin, who was responsible for the master bathroom, and Belgian Vincent Van Duysen, who, in addition to helping furnish the living room and the children’s rooms, later designed Kim Kardashian’s apartment in the same area of California. The result of these luminaries’ collaboration was a minimalist and “futuristic Belgian monastery” (as Kanye West described it) in neutral tones.

Kim Kardashian, who has said that she became interested in design and architecture during the renovation of this house, was never the same again: both the shapewear she designs for her brand Skims and the luxurious cars she drives have the same shades as the interiors created by Axel Vervoordt. “Before I met Kanye I knew nothing about design. Being with him has been an extraordinary education,” Kardashian said in the Architectural Digest article.

Now, thanks to the Kardashian who can pronounce Le Corbusier’s name correctly, West’s snub of Tadao Ando’s work in Malibu will be compensated. The new Ando building that the businesswoman is about to build in Palm Springs will not be her only contribution to the field of contemporary architecture; last year, she announced that another great Japanese architect was building her yet another house. Kengo Kuma, the designer of Tokyo National Stadium, is creating “a house of glass and wood” in a secret location to which Kim Kardashian travels every July 4.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS