Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

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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The gesture was more graceful than the act. With one generous flick of the wrist I sent the paperback sailing across the room. The book, The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, is a small volume tri-authored by an intellectual supergroup: novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, international curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and cultural critic Shumon Basar. In wry deference to its subject, the cover is inked in an oil slick chromo metallic. As Earthquakes arced from the couch to the closet door, which it hit with a thud before dropping to the floor, light reflected off its glistening surface, giving the appearance of a salmon spawning upstream.

(For the record, S,M,L,XL also boasts a silver cover, but I can’t imagine throwing the six-pound tome very far. Earthquakes, by contrast, is lightweight at 7.8 ounces).

When it landed, facedown, pages splayed and pressed against the floor, the half-light of the living room lamps seemed to illuminate a mysterious object. An alien ship crash-landed on oak boards. And so it sat there for a few days. Until my irritation with leaving a book on the floor trumped my irritation with the book itself and I picked it up. Read More …