Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

“Armrest” appears early on in The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion (Actar). The encyclopedic volume by Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, and Georgeen Theodore with Riley Gold (plus contributions from a host of architecture, urbanism, and planning notables) begins with “Accessory Dwelling Unit” and ends with “Youth Curfew,” but it is the armrest placed on a public bench to ward off unsanctioned sleeping that most efficiently summarizes what’s at stake throughout this 459-page book: access, control, and space.

As the three partners of Interboro—a Brooklyn-based architecture, planning, and research collective—Armborst, D’Oca, and Theodore are well versed in the contentious history of urban design and policy in U.S. cities. They manage to strike an editorial tone that is forthright but not strident. If anything, it is a bit self-effacing in regard to the legacy of urbanism’s discourses past and present. “For many nascent urbanists, this is where it all begins, with an excerpt from Mike Davis’s City of Quartz and an ensuing epiphany about space and power,” they write in a sidebar to the “Armrest” entry, all too aware that their example could be, in their term, “hackneyed.” Still, the trio stays with the lesson. Read More …

Images of the havoc that natural disasters wreak upon the built environment are part of our cultural consciousness. They have been since the birth of photography. Yet the past decade or so has seen a worrisome convergence: the parallel increases in the ubiquity of media technology and the number and severity of devastating storms, which are arguably linked to climate change. Katrina: drowned New Orleans freeways and neighborhoods (the latter re-created in Beyoncé’s 2016 “Formation” music video). Sandy: a darkened Manhattan shot by Iwan Baan. Harvey: Houston’s graybrown floodwaters captured by drone photography. Irma: cell phone footage of a battered port town in the British Virgin Islands.

The degree to which the two are connected—and the importance of that link—was most acute when Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, cutting out power and destroying telecommunications infrastructure. The Washington Post even attributed the Trump administration’s delayed response in part to not seeing the wreckage. Read More …

When Robert L. McKay, the architect best known for designing and founding the first Taco Bell, died in early October, news of his passing spread nationwide on the AP Wire. The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary, as did Fox Business and news outlets in Kansas and Nebraska – places that were unlikely to have flocked en masse to hard shell tacos before McKay opened his doors in 1962.

In 2015, McKay’s original building was moved from the Los Angeles suburb of Downey to Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters in Irvine, California. Images from that migration reveal his early vision for a hacienda-type fast-food eatery: mission-style arches across the facade, red Spanish tile roof. Riding down the freeway – doublewide on the back of a flatbed truck – the lowly taco stand merged dogged American entrepreneurism and classic Mexican design. Taco Bell is not on the curatorial checklist of Found in Translation, an exhibition on view until January 2018 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) about the design influences between LA and Mexico, but it could be. Or, given how a fast-food restaurant best known for stoner Meximelt binges and questionable slogans – “Make a run for the border” – transmitted Mexican design imagery across the country, it should be. Read More …

Keep your eye on the ball. In the orbit of THE RED MOON truth is only an illusion, honesty a confidence game. The night moves quickly, pausing only to refresh the ice in your glass. The house is an omniscient sentry ready to expose your eagerness well before dawn. Bury tender wants and dreams. Now is not the time to childishly wish for wishes or try to remember home run hits or wedding toasts. Hunches deep in the pit of your stomach threaten to betray.

You remind yourself that the stakes are low. It’s only a game. It’s only money. It’s only sex. There will always be more chances, more cash. More… love?

Is THE RED MOON lying to you? Are you lying to yourself? Another spin and your gut cramps. Releases. Cramps again. She spells out “YES.” Yes — a truth that rises sourly from your spleen.

REVERSED: In this zona rosa, THE RED MOON offers a vibrant promise of passion. Do you have the courage to trust your intuition?

At a time when digital media makes everyone a critic and a curator, Mimi Zeiger discusses how those titles dovetail in her work. She’ll present her approach to several projects, including Dimensions of Citizenship, the upcoming 2018 U.S. Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tu Casa es mi Casa, and Now, There: Scenes from the Post Geographic City. She’ll investigate how collaboration, structure, research, and critique shape exhibition making.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

SVA MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism
136 W 21st St, Second floor
New York, NY 10011

Office US Manual is a critical, occasionally humorous, and sometimes stupefying guide to the architectural workplace. The third publication of OfficeUS, this book presents office policies and guidelines spanning the last one hundred years alongside commissioned statements by contemporary contributors, original graphic analysis, and images from The Architects by Amie Siegel. The Manual is a resource for understanding—and reimagining—the nature and design of architectural practice.

Rami Abou-Khalil, Sean Anderson, Andrew Atwood, Phil Bernstein, Besler & Sons, Aleksandr Bierig, Gabrielle Brainard, Landon Brown, Felix Burrichter, Savinien Caracostea, Rafael de Cárdenas / Architecture at Large, Choon Choi, Matthew Clarke, Peggy Deamer, Designers Assembly, Caroline O’Donnell, Craig Edward Dykers, Keller Easterling, Family, Pedro Gadanho, Gordon Gill, Liam Gillick, Marc Guberman, Adam Hayes, Juan Herreros, Sarah M. Hirschman, Phu Hoang, Florian Idenburg, Michael Jefferson, George Barnett Johnston, James von Klemperer, Keith Krumwiede, Jimenez Lai, Andrew Laing, Jesse LeCavalier, Leong Leong, Thomas Y. Levin, John May, Kyle May, Nicholas McDermott, Michael Meredith, Sina Najafi, ODA, John Perry, Daniel Pittman, PlayLab, Inc, Charles Renfro, Pierce Reynoldson, Julian Rose, Andrew Ross, Magali Sarfatti-Larson, SHoP Architects, Manuel Shvartzberg, Galia Solomonoff, Erica Stoller, Dan Taeyoung, Nader Tehrani, Troy Conrad Therrien, Nato Thompson, Ada Tolla, Marc Tsurumaki, Julia van den Hout, J.H. Verkerke, Marina Otero Verzier, Ian Volner, Don Weinreich, Marion Weiss, Sarah Whiting, Mabel O. Wilson, Human Wu, Kim Yao, Michael Young, Mimi Zeiger

The Guggenheim Bilbao marks a temporal point as much as a geographic one—more so than Richard Meier’s Getty Museum, which opened in the same year, or any of the works by Sverre Fehn, who won the Pritzker in 1997, Gehry’s museum embodies a moment where architecture moved from a local to a global condition. This is true of both the strategy of the kunsthalle-like space deployed into an undervalued urbanism with hopes of sparking renewal, and technique—early CATIA-generated forms soon to be a benchmark for expressive architecture. Looking back at this moment in time, I wouldn’t say that the Guggenheim was part of the zeitgeist, but rather it actually presaged 21st-century conditions as it fused technology and globalization.

Ed Rosenthal grows weed. He has for decades. The Oakland, California-based horticulturist, author, and activist is the go-to expert on home cultivation. He’s written more than a dozen books on the subject and the policies that surround medical marijuana and legalization. Their titles fall somewhere between what you’d see in your local nursery and your corner head shop: The Big Book of Buds (volumes one through four), Marijuana Garden Saver, and Marijuana Pest & Disease Control.

“Growing is addictive,” Rosenthal says with a laugh, and then quickly clarifies that the drug is not. “Given the right conditions and a sunny backyard, marijuana can be grown almost anywhere in California.” He speaks poetically about marijuana’s diverse morphology: It has male and female plants. Some are tall, some wide, and there are different strains like indica or sativa that range in color—like heirloom tomatoes—from absinthe yellow–green to maroon and deep purple. To cultivate cannabis for its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and psychoactive properties, only the female plants are grown. The male plants look a bit like wild mustard; the female plants are the ones that produce buds for consumption. “With humans and cannabis, the female is considered more beautiful,” he explains. “I have a bunch of marijuana plants growing, and they all look different, like six different varieties of a dahlia. Each plant is an individual.” He compares homegrown marijuana to homegrown tomatoes. “The person who grows the best marijuana is the person who is growing at home. Everybody loves their own produce.”

It’s a vision of cannabis production that is far different from what the public imagination associates with marijuana: the resource-heavy hydroponic “grow house,” which makes high demands on labor, energy, and water. Or the news reports of thousands of plants seized and destroyed on illegal grow sites on U.S. Forest Service land. Read More …

I’m not going to define history. No matter how heavily that word weighs on the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which opened last weekend. Neither will artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee; although they provocatively titled the second iteration of the event “Make New History”, a phrase borrowed from the title of an artist book by Ed Ruscha.

In remarks to the press, they pointed to the many works displayed in the Chicago Cultural Center as explanation. And if these works are to be trusted, then history is not the dark angel haunting philosophers and historians, but rather something lighter: a shiny treasure trove of references – called forth by Google image search – to be appropriated and stylised.

Deadpan Ruscha understood the irony of his slogan. With three simple words he poked fun at the impossibility of escaping our past. An edition of Make New History sits on the shelves of Johnston Marklee‘s office (or so says editor Sarah Hearne in her introduction to the biennial catalog). Read More …

Sometime in the early 1980s, Reyner Banham looked out across a stretch of Arizona landscape—a dry wash and long mound of earth scattered with trash. “[A]mong the chollas and cacti there are areas of burned ash, holes containing broken porcelain insulators and what may be pieces of toilet fitting, broken china and other domestic detritus; and areas of compacted ground that might have been the sites of small  buildings,” he later wrote in Scenes in America Deserta as the opening to a chapter entitled “Frank Lloyd Wright Country.” Read More …