Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

A symbol of the Freemasons – the architecturally familiar square and compass – decorates the facade of the hastily shuttered Marciano Art Foundation, formerly the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, on Wilshire Boulevard. The tools, as part of the mysterious Masonic arcana, represent in some interpretations a belief system in which labour is held as an honest universal.

The irony is that foundation founders Maurice and Paul Marciano of Guess fame abruptly closed their museum-cum-tax-haven as visitor-services staff members voted to unionise. An act that left about 70 employees, on Los Angeles minimum wage of $14.25 (£10.83) an hour, out of work.

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In the eyes of the current administration, the U.S.-Mexico border is violent, in crisis, and must be redundantly fortified, concretized, and policed. But architect Teddy Cruz and political theorist Fonna Forman see that southern boundary as an ecological region—a shared territory of cross-border interdependence and exchange. To them, flow, not heated rhetoric, is the defining character of the San Diego–Tijuana crossing. Most obvious are streams of traffic, goods, and people through the point of entry. What goes unseen is the northward flow of waste and toxins, which disregards the jurisdictional boundaries of nationhood, traveling from the informal settlements in Tijuana’s Laurales Canyon via watersheds and tributaries to the Tijuana River estuary in San Diego and out into the Pacific Ocean. 

“The estuary is already a Federal protected zone—NOAA and the EPA are involved, but it has to be thought of as bioregional,” says Forman. “It is a circular system. Informal settlements recycle and repurpose urban waste, then the trash of the informal settlement ends up back in the estuary.” 

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MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House: October 12, 2019 – February 16, 2020

Curator: Mimi Zeiger

Participants: AGENdA agencia de arquitectura, Tanya Aguiñiga, Pedro Ignacio Alonso and Hugo Palmarola, Laurel Consuelo Broughton—WELCOMEPROJECTS, Design, Bitches, Sonja Gerdes, Bettina Hubby, Alice Lang, Leong Leong, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Anna Puigjaner—MAIO, Bryony Roberts

Graphic design: still room studio
Catalog: PIN-UP
Catalog contributors:
Leslie Dick
Susan Orlean
Photography: Taiyo Watanabe
Catalog photography: Ian Markell
Exhibition design: Andrea Dietz
Exhibition fabrication/installation: Lauren Gideonse
Coordination and installation: Bedros Yeretzian
Tension bar design: alm project Read More …

Architecture has always had the power to become one of the utmost representations of an epoch: it materially manifests the spirit of its time. As we have edited, produced, and revisited our collection of magazines, events, podcasts, projects, and editorials, the role that criticism and theory have is indispensable for the confirmation of an architecture culture. Now, we are inviting others to join us and add their ideas, curiosities, and sketches. The Criticism Series asks architecture and thinkers to respond to a single question: What is the role of criticism and theory in architecture today? Read More …

The third edition of Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) opened its doors one day before Chicago school children gathered in Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Plaza as part of the Global Climate Strike. It begins during a month when President Trump feuded with California over housing policy and the state’s homelessness crisis, and at a time when shootings in Chicago’s West and South sides are reported every few days and the fires in Brazil continue to burn.

It was a week, like many weeks in recent memory, which underscored the themes of the biennial curated by artistic director Yesomi Umolu, curator/educator Sepake Angiama and architect Paulo Tavares.

Although its lowercase title …and other such stories might suggest a more recumbent position, this biennial is teaming with anthropogenic urgencies: violence caused by structural racism, global housing inequities, and scars left by colonisation and resource extraction.

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IT’S BEEN NEARLY TWO DECADES since Diébédo Francis Kéré designed his first piece of architecture: a clay-brick primary school in his home village of Gando, Burkina Faso, constructed by residents. This past spring, the Berlin-based architect produced a soaring suite of temporary pavilions at Coachella, the desert music festival that attracts influencers and their followers with a gravitational force.

Comparing these buildings, one notes that oppositions quickly stack up: third world versus first, local versus global, necessity versus luxury. The distance between these projects—geographic, temporal, economic—raises questions old and new about architecture’s ability to authentically operate as a modest response to a set of distinct requirements, particularly while functioning under the experience economy’s demands, with its effervescent cocktail of spectacle and capital.

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Lady architects, I see you.
Female architects, I see you.
Female-identifying architects, I see you.
Non-binary architects, I see you.

I see you in your hard hats or Nike kicks designing, curating, teaching, and writing. I see you helming firms and leading architecture schools.

I see you opening Rhino, crunching spreadsheets, and juggling work-life balance.

And I see you, like me, cringing with frustration when another well-meaning article asks: Where are the women architects?

I’ve had Lizzo’s fierce new album on heavy rotation lately. It’s an anthemic celebration of self-love and acceptance. So you’ll have to excuse me when I say: Bitch, please. We’re here. If we can’t see ourselves, who will see us?

Since the early days of the women’s movement, women in architecture have been tasked with answering the question of the numbers in their ranks. Though the percentage of female practitioners has increased over the years, moving from single digits to low doubles, the question persists. It’s no wonder that “Where are the women architects?” (WATWA), an inquiry powerful men defend as neutral, would be so triggering. Visibility, often manifested as tokenism, overshadows intellectual and creative work.

Despina Stratigakos, University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning professor and author of the 2016 book Where Are the Women Architects?, posed the question as a provocation, not as a kind of binders-full-of-women show-and-tell or call for statistics. “It’s erasure, not an absence,” she says. “I was realizing the richness of the history and the people, but I couldn’t see that world reflected in books and museums.”

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The three design schemes look totally distinct on paper and come with different names — “Island,” “Soft Edge,” “The Yards” — but they all have the same goal: restore wildlife habitat, plant people-friendly landscapes and develop flood-control strategies for a place that has been the subject of so much neglect, speculation, dreaming and debate: the L.A. River.

Some of the loudest conversations about the transformation of the 51-mile L.A. River center on Taylor Yard, what had been a greasy, soot-filled tangle of rail lines and boxcars. Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, freight trains rumbled to and from the yard named after the Taylor Mill that once stood on the site. When Southern Pacific Railroad vacated the land in the mid-1980s, the company left behind a contaminated plot along the concrete-lined waterway.

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A psychedelic-hued pavilion straight out of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” has landed at the La Brea Tar Pits. A wormy twist of organic shapes and iridescent colors, the 866-square-foot structure opening to the public Friday is the work of Selgascano, a Spanish firm bringing its knack for creating exuberant architecture to Los Angeles with a portfolio of high-profile projects.

In projects across Europe, founders José Selgas and Lucia Cano are known as designers who defy conventions and gleefully embrace a trippy, sci-fi aesthetic. Their translucent, tangerine-colored Palacio de Congresos de Plasencia in Spain is quite possibly a hallucination drawn from a Tom Wolfe acid trip.

Their tar pits installation, called the Second Home Serpentine Pavilion, was commissioned by the Serpentine Galleries and exhibited in London’s Hyde Park in 2015. (It’s named after the co-working-space company Second Home, which is opening a Selgascano-designed campus this summer.)

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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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