Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Presented as part of the Ada Louise Huxtable and the Formation of the Architecture Critic Workshop held at the Getty Research Institute, organized by Maristella Casciato and Gary Fox. Participants included: Barry Bergdoll, Maristella Casciato, Pippo Ciorra, Meredith Clausen, Gary Fox, Ann Harrison, Anne Helmreich, Thomas Hines, Mary McLeod, Barbara Penner, Emily Pugh, Peg Rawes, Suzanne Stephens, Wim de Wit, and Mimi Zeiger.

Questions of criticism in relationship to time have been on my mind lately. So, I wanted to start with a quote from Huxtable taken from her 1969 review of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction published in the New York Times under the title “The Case for Chaos”:

Today’s theory is tomorrow’s practice. With the speedup characteristic of our age, it has a way of becoming today’s practice. Any thinking feeling citizen involved with his environment in this latter part of the twentieth century (that’s right—latter—with all the “projections” to the one awesome remote year 2000 no more than comfortable middle age for the present generation) must know the wave of future or succumb to the undertow of the past.

—Ada Louise Huxtable, New York Times, January 26, 1969

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It’s midday in northern New Mexico, and the guided tour starts with a request (nay command) to stay on the sandy path. We’ve come to visit a cave: in 1994, local cave digger Ra Paulette (he shirks the term artist) began burrowing into a sandstone cliff to create the intricate interiors of Windows on the Earth, a sanctuary-like hideaway. Dug by hand over the course of two years, it comprises a sequence of tall and narrow vaults converging on a central space, where a throne-like seat is set high up in the wall; as you move through the cave, eccentric ornamentation — organic whorls, fossil-like seashells, shrine alcoves — punctuates implausibly smooth surfaces. It’s a wonder of man shaping the landscape, but first, we’ve stopped for a New Age biology lesson.

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Sarah Whiting will become the first woman dean of Harvard’s GSD, joining a growing contingent of female leadership in academia. But will such appointments bring equity to the profession?

On July 1, when Sarah Whiting steps into the job of leading the most prestigious architecture school in the country, she will be the eighth dean and the first woman to helm Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. And while her appointment is a personal and professional achievement for Whiting, it also marks a sea change for an institution still grappling with the aftermath of architecture’s #metoo moment. Last year, faculty and student populations alike petitioned for reform.

Construction is abundant across Los Angeles right now, and amid the backhoes and the cranes we are seeing signs of fresh takes on expressive architecture: glass domes, geometric facades, soaring arches. Charges of elitism swirl around big-time architecture, but many of the new designs opening this season promise to advance cultural and social life in L.A., whether with a riverside park that filters rainwater or a campus crafted to uplift the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth.

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The celebrated multidisciplinary artist Sterling Ruby has long been concerned with freedom. With its degradation, its expression and its preservation – as well as its literal and conceptual importance in the identity of his home and homeland, America. Having grown up in Baltimore and rural Pennsylvania, and then studied in both Chicago and LA, Ruby has drawn from the contours of these variegated US landscapes, compiling a body of work that is equally aesthetically and texturally diverse. What all these environments have in common, though, is an epic scale – rural, urban, industrial – an element that has governed his practice since the start.

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Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field. Read More …

It’s an uncharacteristically wet day when I meet with Los Angeles–based architect Clive Wilkinson at his office in Culver City, a mixed-use building he designed in 2012. Wilkinson is a bit of a coffee snob, so it makes sense that his ground floor tenant is Cognoscenti Coffee, which serves some of the best brews in the city. Despite the downpour, brave souls on laptops shelter under the overhang formed by the stairs leading to the reception desk at Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA).

It’s a tableau indicative of our time—of how we work now. Work is itinerant and flexible. Work is everywhere and anywhere there’s Wi-Fi and espresso.

Given the transient nature of our contemporary work lives, supported by a host of mobile devices, the actual need for an office might seem unwarranted. But Wilkinson believes in the workplace as a kind of urbanism, as community, and as a theater for everyday life—his book, “The Theater of Work,” is scheduled to come out in February. For close to three decades, he’s been at the forefront of workplace design. How, why, and where we work is central to his award-winning practice. Read More …

If there was any lingering doubt that Brutalism — the architectural style derided for everything the name implies — was back in fashion, the “Atlas of Brutalist Architecture” quashes it with a monumental thump. At 560 pages representing some 878 works of architecture in over 100 countries, the outsize volume is part reference tool, part coffee table book, and certainly part of an ongoing design trend favoring big, big books.

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Art institutions often crow about their roles as bastions of progressive thought — places robust enough to tackle tough cultural questions in the gallery. Yet the 2018 firings of several prominent curators and directors exposed the precarity of women who speak out and through their exhibitions and programs, provoke conversations about race, gender, privilege, and power. As we move into 2019, it seems more important than ever to interrogate the dubious narrative of the museum as a safe space, but also to hold out hope that it can be a place of resistance. Read More …