Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Last Friday, Rem Koolhaas sat on stage in the main event tent of Fundamentals, the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale de Venezia, for a panel discussion on preservation. His shoulders were characteristically hunched and his hands were folded over the microphone. All eyes were on Koolhaas as the packed house waited for him to speak, willing him to fully explain why, as director of the biennale, he broke La Biennale into three parts, tasking the national pavilions with a research imperative entitled Absorbing Modernity: 1914–2014, devoting the Central Pavilion to the kit-of-parts Elements of Architecture, and filling the Arsenale with the interdisciplinary, countrywide scan, Monditalia. Read More …

OfficeUS 25 ISSUES TALKS, the inaugural working summit of the United States Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale de Venezia, in Venice, Italy. The conversations will take place during the opening days, on June 6th, 7th, and 8th at the US Pavilion in the Giardini and will launch the six month investigation of OfficeUS. Read More …

The day before the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale opened to the public, Wolf D. Prix, COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s resident avant-gardist issued a statement to the press. Rebuking the curators for banality in the face of crisis, Prix’s missive evokes a colourful vision of architects packed into a sinking gondola, a metaphor for the discipline’s “powerlessness and irrelevance.” And his prickling has a target. “Politicians and project managers, investors and bureaucrats have been deciding on our built environment for a long time now,” he writes. “Not the architects.” Meanwhile, deep in the Biennale, Public Works: Architecture by Civil Servants, OMA’s contribution to Common Ground, counters the Austrian’s lament.

Public Works celebrates the bureaucrat. Read More …

In recent years, there has been a nascent movement of designers acting on their own initiative to solve problematic urban situations, creating new opportunities and amenities for the public. Provisional, improvisational, guerrilla, unsolicited, tactical, temporary, informal, DIY, unplanned, participatory, opensource—these are just a few of the words that have been used to describe this growing body of work.

Spontaneous Interventions frames an archive of compelling, actionable strategies, ranging from urban farms to guerrilla bike lanes, temporary architecture to poster campaigns, urban navigation apps to crowdsourced city planning. These efforts cut across boundaries, addressing architecture, landscape, infrastructure, and the digital universe, and run the gamut from symbolic to practical, physical to virtual, whimsical to serious. But they share an optimistic willingness to venture outside conventional practice and to deploy fresh tactics to make cities more sustainable, accessible, and inclusive.

Awarded Special Mention for National Participation.

Commissioner and Curator: Cathy Lang Ho
Co-curators: David van der Leer and Ned Cramer
Curatorial Advisors: Paola Antonelli, Anne Guiney, Zoe Ryan, Michael Sorkin and Erik Adigard
Project managers: Gordon Douglas and Mimi Zeiger
Design: Freecell, M-A-D, and Interboro Partners

“[T]he show may not be the first but it is the latest and one of the most panoramic surveys of this sort of insurgent, unplanned, provisional, do-it-yourself micro-cultural citizen activism.

That many of the projects here skirt authority and don’t involve architects suggests not that architects aren’t important or that cities don’t depend on top-down plans. It suggests that cities and architects still have a ways to go to catch up with an increasingly restless public’s appetite for better design and better living.

And that the public isn’t waiting.”—Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

If there’s a common question to be answered by the dozens of projects collected in Spontaneous Interventions, it might be: “What is the role of a local project in a global age?” The individual projects represented—pop-up parks, community agriculture, ad-hoc street furniture, guerrilla bike lanes—are not necessarily overt as they position themselves against the effects of global capital. However, taken as a group, these interventions run counter to the unchecked boom-and-bust development of what David Harvey and others critically describe as the neoliberal city. Small-scale and socially engaged, spontaneous interventions use design to enrich public space and foster civic life at a time when the disparity between daily life and the governmental and corporate mechanisms shaping cities is at an all-time high. Read More …

AGENCY has been selected to exhibit at the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia), acting as ambassadors for SUPERFRONT in collaboration with At Work With at the Nordic Pavilion to realize “30S”, a crowdsourced video installation addressing the role of the architect in the design of public space.

Project Description
The project expands the theme of the 12th International Architectural Exhibition at the Venice Biennale to highlight the role of the festival itself in fabricating and amplifying the identity of the contemporary architect.

While “people meet in architecture”, the architect often operates in environments uncannily devoid of interpersonal contact. Paradoxically, it is from these most private spaces that our cities’ civic buildings and public spaces are designed.

The installation will linger in the private space of the architect, projecting a continuous stream of user-generated content from an installation-specific web-based video channel, acting as a clearinghouse for 30-second clips of static-shot digital video. Video will highlight the quotidian, intimate, and banal aspects of architectural endeavor, forcibly colluding these highly personal spaces with the public realm by means of digital projection into the exhibit space of the Pavilion.

AGENCY will host user-generated content in a continuous, looping stream on the AGENCY blog.