Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

The crude kitsch of fast-food diners is being abandoned in a bid to communicate sustainability, community and health

Back in the ’90s, when I was a grad student at SCI-Arc, my class was sent out to the desert to meet art critic and raconteur Dave Hickey, who was then teaching at the University of Las Vegas. We met at the Hilton Sportsbook, a cavernous room where, even in the middle of the day, there wasn’t a sliver of natural light. With a backdrop of screens lighting up the gloom, Hickey shared his philosophy of Mediterranean architecture, which applied as much to the Mojave Desert and Los Angeles, as to the coast of Spain or Italy. Shadow. Darkness. Escape the sun.

Radical interiority – the concept flies in the face of California Modernism, which obsessively blurs boundaries between inside and out, and defies conclusions of Learning From Las Vegas by ignoring the exterior. To illustrate his point, perhaps, Hickey took us to The Peppermill Restaurant & Fireside Lounge, a kitschy Vegas establishment that, true to its ’70s roots, features a sunken living room, purple carpet and 24-hour breakfasts. Time doesn’t simply stop here, but congeals. If fast, fresh, and light are core tenets of contemporary food culture, the Peppermill rejects all of them.

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In recent times, events in the US have raised an awareness of the connections between the built environment and questions of justice, equity and political agency

In 2003, architect and critic Michael Sorkin wrote: ‘All architecture is political’. While the intervening decade and a half has shown a certain lassitude in the field of architecture to embrace this position, events in the US over the last few years, from the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement to the 2016 presidential election, provoked a renewed awareness of the connections between the built environment and questions of justice, equity and political agency. Read More …

In 1966, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi took the research trip to Las Vegas that produced the famous photo of her posed arms akimbo, legs firmly planted in the desert against a pattern of casino signs. It’s a career-defining image: iconic in how forcefully it establishes her and Venturi’s belief in an architecture of communication and, in recent years, emblematic of Scott Brown’s position as an outspoken role model for women in the field. Read More …

Nearly a month after Denise Scott Brown and her husband and partner Robert Venturi received the 2016 AIA Gold Medal and a few days before the RIBA awarded Zaha Hadid the 2016 Royal Gold Medal, I get on the phone to outspoken curator and architect Eva Franch i Gilabert, director of New York City’s Storefront for Art and Architecture. I explain I’m writing a piece about women in architecture. Read More …

Should architects design for torture? Of course not. The answer seems so clear, so unequivocally in line with the contemporary image of the architect as a just shaper of the society, a creative world citizen serving both client and public.

When we switch the question around, however, and ask if architects should curtail their involvement in designing certain spaces associated with prisons, specifically spaces intended for execution and prolonged solitary confinement, the answer becomes murky. Client-side alliances and post-occupancy reporting complicate the architect’s societal duty. Such restriction asks architects to take an ethical and human rights stance on ongoing practices that could be considered out of their control.

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