Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

While putting the finishing touches on this combined west and southwest issue, AN received word of the passing of Edward Soja. According to colleagues, he had been ill for some time but I was unprepared for the news and was left mulling the death of one of Los Angeles’s critical voices at a time when questions of equity and identity— topics that he often wrote about—still need addressing.

A professor emeritus at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, Soja was considered part of the L.A. School, a group that also includes Mike Davis. His 1989 book, Postmodern Geographies, came with the chunky academic subtitle “The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory,” yet its ideas influenced architects and students well into the 1990s. For my generation, the use of “deconstruction” by Soja and others opened up new ways to understand, write about, and practice in the city. Read More …

I couldn’t sleep last night. LA was having another heatwave and rather than lay awake I read a back issue of The New Yorker, catching up on a report that said a Cascadian earthquake was overdue and would knock out much of the Pacific Northwest. A resulting tsunami would break across the West Coast devastating all architecture and infrastructure west of Interstate 5. “Toast,” noted author Kathryn Schulz.

After falling into a fitful slumber, dreaming of higher, more stable ground, I awoke to another blazing day courtesy of climate change. The sky was singed brown at the edges from wildfires taking out homes somewhere more easterly and the sound of helicopters – the vernacular “ghetto birds” – circled overhead. The reason for police action was neither immediately clear nor personally threatening. I made a note – “get earthquake kit” – then brewed coffee. Pending crisis averted.

Over the last decade, especially with the rise of research-oriented design practices, architecture has tried (and struggled) to address crisis. Specific methodologies vary, but two modes dominate: pre- and post-natural disaster. The second we recognise as social-impact design from the likes of Shigeru Ban and others. MacGyver-like, architectures responsive to aftermath are deployable, agile, and cheap. They may even earn you a Pritzker. Read More …

Dear Mayor Garcetti,

“The best place to view Los Angeles of the next millennium is from the ruins of its alternative future.”
—Mike Davis, City of Quartz (1990)

“L.A. WANTS 2 HELP U”
—Billboard Oracle, L.A. Story (1991)

What is the future of Los Angeles? This is the question everyone is asking. And it is the perennial question posed by everyone from William Mulholland to Walt Disney to Frank Gehry. In each casting of the runes, the city is both subject and object. It is a place where the wind rustling the bougainvillea is a siren song and the Santa Ana’s blowing down palm fronds is an omen. But you know this, my fellow Angelino. Just as you know that The Los Angeles 2020 Commission wrinkles its collective brow with concern as it evaluates the next six years and that the LA2050 initiative (funded by the Goldhirsh Foundation) foresees an optimistic, crowdsourced metropolis. Read More …