Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

On a Sunday afternoon this past fall, a small group gathered in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, one of the oldest parks in Manhattan. Architects and artists, curators and academics, neighborhood residents and stage moms—all had come for a performance of Marching On, a collaboration between architectural designers and scholars Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson, and the Marching Cobras of New York, a Harlem-based after-school drum line and dance team.

With a start, the sound of drumbeats cut through the autumn air. Dancers dressed in white and musicians in military-type fatigues filed into the square, their camouflage capes flapping with each high-energy move. For the next few minutes, the audience was united by the beat and transfixed by the performers’ shifting formations. Just as quickly, it was over. After a couple rounds of cheers, the team marched off and the audience dispersed. Read More …

The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., designed in 1980 by Philip Johnson (with his partner John Burgee) for Christian televangelist Robert H. Schuller, was both a destination for the faithful and a broadcasting studio for the pastor’s weekly Hour of Power television show. Reverend Schuller was an architectural connoisseur (the AIA named him an honorary member in 2003), and the 78,000-square-foot steel-and-glass-building attracted thousands of congregants, including some local architects, who would drive south to Orange County for The Glory of Christmas, a spectacular holiday pageant on the scale of a Broadway show, with music, lights, and even live camels. Read More …

It’s easy to picture Philip Johnson seated in his regular booth in the Grill Room at the Four Seasons; his back to the windows, his bespectacled eyes on the door, he’s confident and at the top of his game as he presides over a room of his own design.

Now imagine him jittery and hesitant in a different room on a different coast. It’s the late 1950s and, faced with a University of California, Berkeley researcher trying to uncover the secrets to his creativity, Johnson uses his ample verbal and social gifts to upend the interview. In a typed report, the researcher would later write, “He showed many classic features of the manic: self-centered, irritable, jumpy, flight of ideas, arrogance, use of humor to defend against serious consideration of anxiety-producing topics.” Read More …