Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Ezra Stoller photographed postwar U.S. architecture with the rigor of a true believer. His images—published widely in numerous trade magazines as well as in House Beautiful and House & Garden—presented modernism not as an avant-garde or utopian vision, but as a movement in situ, one born fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s skull. Yet a global war and an ocean unequivocally separate early twentieth-century experiments undertaken at the Bauhaus and by Le Corbusier from the postwar embrace of modern architecture by corporate leaders and the cultural elite in the United States.

In Stoller’s crisp, black-and-white prints, boxy-shouldered skyscrapers like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building (1958) or Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s building for Union Carbide (1960), both in New York, proudly rise above the city grid—steel and glass curtain walls towering over masonry edifices. These were depicted as the heroes of a new age. Stoller, always precise about natural light and time of day, photographed Mies’s structure at dusk; every floor is illuminated, and the building seems to glow with industry. His image of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1959), taken looking straight up into the cylindrical belly of the building, freezes Frank Lloyd Wright’s experiential design of spiraling ramps into an iconic composition—modernism’s dynamism temporarily tamed.

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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 …

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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I admit it; I’ve retreated. In the midst of a scorching summer of bigotry and violence, where every day serves up another horror at home and abroad, I’ve taken to bed. I soothe myself with heavy doses of the genteel diversity pictured on The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off in its homeland), where layers of pastry unify a country polarised by Brexit.

Other nights I indulge in Mr Robot, caught up in a world of digital unrest where the hackers are good guys operating in the name of equity, not a possible foreign power trying to disrupt an election. Read More …