Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

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 …

In early January, I visited the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University in Houston, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA), on the first day the new building opened for classes. Students searched for their assigned rooms as the final stages of construction unfolded around them. An orange traffic cone in front of a pair of glass doors signaled the entry to the 52,000-square-foot building.

It was a quiet afternoon for this self-proclaimed “transdisciplinary lab for creativity,” which will be far less subdued when it opens to the public on Feb. 24. The Moody Center is a hybrid, both in its mission and its architecture. An education space (with 4,000 square feet of classrooms) and maker spaces (including wood and rapid prototyping shops), the building will also be a cultural arts hub, with a theater and galleries. “Academia has gotten quite siloed,” Alison Weaver, the center’s executive director, told me. “How can we cross-pollinate again? Our goal is to be less a cabinet of curiosities and more a conversation.” Read More …

PR logistics sometimes brings together strange bedfellows. This was the case in Lisbon, where the opening of the nearly complete Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), designed by British architect Amanda Levete, was timed to coincide with the opening of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

One opening presented a sparkling new kunsthalle with an interdisciplinary curatorial mission, while the other offered an inward-looking meditation on architecture, representation and authorship. Taken together, they represent an ongoing struggle to define architectural value to practitioners and the public alike. Read More …

Arch. Dome. Vault. The terms are relics of architectural history, but in Southern California they are also the building blocks of suburbia, where Mission-style McMansions flaunt endless stucco arches and vaulted foyers. Principals Sharon Johnston, AIA, and Mark Lee of Los Angeles–based Johnston Marklee, however, have updated the archaic and used vaults to rethink a beach house in Oxnard, Calif., just north of Malibu. Read More …