Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

As rents increase and household income stagnates, more people are turning to micro-living as an alternative to pricier options. On Tuesday, June 28, at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown L.A., KPCC reporter Josie Huang met with a panel of experts to discuss the viability of micro-units as a response to L.A.’s affordable housing crisis. Panelists discussed the recent trend in the development of micro-units – typically apartments that are 400 square feet or smaller. Topics covered included the affordability and sustainability of the units, their impact on the racial and socioeconomic composition of neighborhoods, and the cultural and economic trends whose pressures they reflect. Read More …

Join us in discussing alternative models of urbanism and how public realm investments can support culture and build community. The recently completed ‘Hollywood Pop!’ will serve as as a starting point for our discussion. A yearlong park installation funded by the Sunset & Vine Business Improvement District, the project was designed and built by LA-Más to explore divergent approaches to providing public amenities in the private realm.

Our diverse panel represents a wide range of voices – urban advocates, bureaucrats, designers, critics, and Hollywood business stakeholders. Our discussion will focus on the potential of public-private partnerships and small scale investments that can not only blur traditional urban boundaries, but also provide a model for investment and impact at the neighborhood scale.

This discussion features Nat Gale (Los Angeles Department of Transportation), Elizabeth Timme (LA-Más), Daveed Kapoor (utopiad.org), Mimi Zeiger (critic), Matthew Severson (Hollywood Property Owners Alliance), with facilitation by Helen Leung (LA-Más).

What is disruption, anyway? The term has been cast as a tech market tactic, a cultural trope, and a belief system of near-theological proportions. In an evening of performances and provocations, we considered many definitions of this watchword. Presenters offered perspectives of radical change ranging from activism and technology to equity and design:

Participants: It’s Showtime NYC subway dancers; Kimberly Drew, @museummammy and associate online community producer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Riley Hooker, editor, Façadomy; E. Tammy Kim, editorial staffer, The New Yorker, Jonathan Lee, design manager/lead, Google Design; Oscar Nuñez, program coordinator, Center for Urban Pedagogy; members of Picture the Homeless; Steven Thrasher, U.S. writer-at-large, The Guardian; and critic, editor, and curator Mimi Zeiger

Artist Janet Echelman creates extra-large, jellyfish-like sculptures—colorful net structures that compete with the size of buildings. Yet, to merely refer to their monumental scale is to ignore their subtle and surprising dynamic details. Her artworks aren’t set in stone; instead, they hang in the air, responsive to the wind. Each sculpture, made of ropes tied into netting with tens of thousands of often hand-tied knots, casts an ever-changing pattern of shadows on the urban environment. Read More …

At 8 a.m. on a Saturday in Phoenix, coffee brews inside the city’s sprawl of desert-colored homes and apartments and a chorus of AC units starts a morning hum. About a dozen people with sensible shoes and water bottles gather in a parking lot near the banks of the Rio Salado. The nearly horizontal rays of sun hit the Palo Verde trees, making them glow.

In the shade, Angela Ellsworth, the founder and managing director of the Museum of Walking, takes a head count and passes around a clipboard asking folks to sign a liability waiver for a contemplative nature walk through the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The activity promises an easy 3-mile loop. The paperwork, albeit bureaucratically par for the course, is part of the process—a commitment to a mostly-silent, two-hour hike led by our “curator of walking” for the day, a local musician and interpretive park ranger named Amber Gore.

Desert finches rustle in the brittlebrush as Gore leads us along the trail. She instructs us to listen to our feet crunching on the path, and as we do, the noise of the highway fades away and we’re surrounded by the sounds and smells of Sonoran wetland.

Read More …

Alejandro Aravena opens his Reporting from the Front with a backhand lob. “ARCHITECTURE IS” greets Biennale visitors entering the Arsenale, the first of his exhibition’s two main venues.

Neither a question nor a statement, it is an open phrase that begs completion. Aravena fills it in with the tenderhearted sentiment “giving form where people live”, and the accompanying exhibition displays an equally sensitive array of designs that are humanistic, material-based, and locally contextualised. Read More …

Salon Participant

HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern

The city of Pittsburgh encountered modern architecture through an ambitious program of urban revitalization in the 1950s and ’60s. HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern untangles Pittsburgh’s complicated relationship with modern architecture and urban planning.

In this experimental presentation at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center, architects-in-residence over,under highlight successive histories of pioneering architectural successes, disrupted neighborhoods, and the utopian aspirations and ideals of public officials and business leaders. These intertwined narratives shape the exhibition’s presentation, which includes abundant archival materials from the period, an active architecture studio, and a salon-style discussion space, all unearthing layers of history and a range of perspectives.

Through these stories, HACLab Pittsburgh demonstrates the city’s national influence in the development of the modern American city, and focus on several neighborhoods and sites, including Gateway Center, the Lower Hill, Allegheny Center, and Oakland. Read More …

Until recently most Angelenos likely regarded tiny houses — residences as small as 70 square feet — with bemusement, as fodder for cable TV series or design magazines. Last month, however, tiny houses became a social justice cause when the city seized three that had been donated to people who are homeless.

Boxy and brightly painted, with wheels, lights and a lockable door, these particular crowdfunded shelters were constructed by Los Angeles resident Elvis Summers and provided to homeless people in South Los Angeles as a step up from the tents and tarp settlements that now dot the city. His act of good samaritanship has sparked a debate among city officials, activists, homeless individuals, and neighborhood residents over whether tiny houses are blight or salvation. Read More …

Shelter. Let’s start there. It’s a basic need. The root of architecture— Marc-Antoine Laugier’s enlightenment frontispiece offers up the primitive hut as reason over nature. A right, right? We’d like to think so. But globally and nationally, the simplest of human acts of shelter are elusive, politicized, and pushed to extremes. In architecture building types conventions split along economic lines: house versus housing. The former is a client-driven expression of taste, while the latter requires a systematic juggling of multiple units and services. Read More …

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 …