Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

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 …

Curators: Mario Ballesteros, Andrea Dietz, Sarah Lorenzen, and Mimi Zeiger
 

Artists and writers: Frida Escobedo, Aris Janigian, Pedro&Juana, Tezontle, Katya Tylevich, and David Ulin

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, Los Angeles with Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura.

Tu casa es mi casa features site-specific installations by three Mexico City–based design teams—Frida Escobedo, Pedro&Juana, and Tezontle, and three California-based writers—Aris Janigian, Katya Tylevich, and David Ulin.

If our contemporary political moment offers up a border wall as the primary architectural expression of connection between the U.S. and Mexico, Tu casa es mi casa suggests a more porous boundary between the two countries. The title, a riff on the welcoming “my house is your house,” offers the inverted “your house is my house”—an expression of the personal and political stakes of this transposition.

Installed in Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House in Los Angeles and in collaboration with Mexico City–based gallery Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura, Tu casa es mi casagrapples with questions about architectural space, mass production, and domesticity within the legacy of modernism. Both Mexico City and Los Angeles absorbed the initial precepts of the international movement and adapted them to singular social-political-environmental contexts. A return to these twin interpretations re-investigates the promises of the utopian project through a contemporary lens.

Timed to coincide with The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, the exhibition acknowledges a history of architectural, critical, and literary exchange between California and Mexico, however the curators ask that we not only reevaluate past understandings, but also celebrate the richness of contemporary Mexican design practice today.

Tu casa es mi casa is supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, Bestor Architecture, Michael Maltzan Architects, NAC Architecture, TEN Arquitectos with additional support from Aesop, Bar Keeper and Mezcal Union, Triview Glass Industries LLC, Cal Poly Pomona Department of Architecture (CPP ARC), SCI-Arc, USC School of Architecture, and Woodbury University School of Architecture.

At the heart of Exhibit Columbus, a biennial-like exhibition of 17 architectural installations and pavilions that runs through November 26, lies the question: “What can architecture do for a community?” The community in question is Columbus, Ind., known as the birthplace of Vice President Mike Pence, the home to diesel engine manufacturer Cummins, Inc. (the region’s largest employer), and, most prominently, the site of industrialist and philanthropist (and former Cummins chair) J. Irwin Miller’s experiment in municipal modernism. Read More …

Leave it to technology to burst my Suitaloon of memory. Old emails tell me that I met Dennis Crompton — architect, Archigram founder, and the group’s de facto archivist — on a spring day in late April. We sat for more an hour on a bench in Cooper Square while he graciously considered my adoring questions.

The six-member British group — Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, David Greene, Ron Herron, Michael Webb, and Crompton — produced some of the most revolutionary designs of the 1960s and early 1970s, thumbing their collective noses at the precepts of modernism and embracing the excesses of postwar pop culture. It befuddled Crompton that they were occasionally dubbed The Beatles of architecture. “We didn’t know the Beatles at all,” he said that day, nixing any hopes for intersquad comparison. Still, there I sat, fangirl posing as journalist. Read More …

“Words! How can we ever untangle them?” reads James Rose’s opening salvo in Pencil Points. Appearing in the definitive journal of Modernist design thought, the landscape designer’s 1939 essay rejects preconceived ideas of formal or informal design and makes the case for an organic and materials-based approach—an argument approaching revelation at time when Beaux Arts methodologies held sway.

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New Yorkers find it hard to understand Los Angeles. They extol the beach and weather, but sneer at the traffic and cheesy Hollywood Boulevard. Intrepid visitors might find nirvana on Mulholland Drive or in an order of tacos al pastor, but few get the, to use a very LA word, vibe. Writing in the 1970s, Eve Babitz – artist, author, party girl, Angeleno – once chided a visitor from the East Coast for being so at odds with the city’s pace. ‘And he wore ties, even on weekends,’ she scoffed.

Which is why it’s such a surprise to find David Alhadeff – quintessential New Yorker, founder of Manhattan design gallery and store The Future Perfect, and described by The New York Times as the original ‘fulcrum’ of the Brooklyn design movement — sitting tieless in the kitchen of his midcentury modern Hollywood home. His laptop is open; he’s on the phone. Still, he seems relaxed. The breakfast nook of Casa Perfect is his West Coast office. It overlooks the pool, a David Hockney painting waiting to happen. Read More …

IN THE DAYS following the 2016 election, as a percentage of the US population partied and another reeled in disbelief, a flood of poll data poured in. Analysts and journalists sifted, categorized, and created slick infographics coded in blue and red. A trend emerged: the polarization of urban and rural America.

The Washington Post reported that “[t]he majority of counties with populations greater than 500,000 — where roughly half of Americans live — swung further to the left.” (Even in stalwart red states like Texas and Georgia.) Small and midsized counties, on the other hand, shifted right. Yes, despite our digital interconnectedness and the seeming ubiquity of globalized commercial culture — a.k.a. a Starbucks on every corner — the city and the country are still divided, splintering the American Dream. Read More …

How one responds to the exhibition now on view at SCI-Arc may very well depend on the ability to distinguish between a duck and a swan. “The Duck and the Document: True Stories of Postmodern Procedures” begins with a wall-sized construction drawing for a fountain in the forecourt of Michael Graves’ Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. The drawing at first seems to be a graphic representation of Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA’s definition of “duck”: an emblem of architecture’s most valiant form-making impulses. Read More …