Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

It’s hard to believe that it was only last month that Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), pledged the national organisation and its membership to working with president-elect Donald Trump.

Issued just days after the election, the tone-deaf timing of the obsequious memo provoked reactions from The Architecture Lobby, critic Michael Sorkin and Equity in Architecture (among others), who rejected the AIA’s stance as politically representative of professional architects. Read More …

PR logistics sometimes brings together strange bedfellows. This was the case in Lisbon, where the opening of the nearly complete Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), designed by British architect Amanda Levete, was timed to coincide with the opening of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

One opening presented a sparkling new kunsthalle with an interdisciplinary curatorial mission, while the other offered an inward-looking meditation on architecture, representation and authorship. Taken together, they represent an ongoing struggle to define architectural value to practitioners and the public alike. Read More …

I admit it; I’ve retreated. In the midst of a scorching summer of bigotry and violence, where every day serves up another horror at home and abroad, I’ve taken to bed. I soothe myself with heavy doses of the genteel diversity pictured on The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off in its homeland), where layers of pastry unify a country polarised by Brexit.

Other nights I indulge in Mr Robot, caught up in a world of digital unrest where the hackers are good guys operating in the name of equity, not a possible foreign power trying to disrupt an election. 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 …

“If all possible old building stock in Los Angeles was converted to creative office space, that still wouldn’t meet the demand for creative offices,” a commercial real estate broker once explained to me.

At the time, his company was trying to crack the workplace code: how to cater to the technology sector’s voracious taste for converted industrial warehouses and lofts? Established tech companies and startups alike had aligned the rough-and-ready aesthetics of the artist studio with the well-worn terms of Silicon Valley – disruption, innovation, and flexibility. Read More …

Last month, LACMA announced that James Goldstein — an eccentric personage familiar courtside at Lakers games — had promised his iconic John Lautner–designed home to the museum. The gift, which includes $17 million (£12.1 million) for preservation and maintenance, was widely reported along with the well-known piece of pop cultural trivia, that the house was featured in a Coen brothers’ film — as summed up with one clickbait headline: The Porn House From The Big Lebowski Has Been Donated to a Museum. Read More …

The Petersen Automotive Museum only reopened yesterday, but connoisseurs of Wilshire Boulevard architecture have been jawing about the eye-popping facade for months. Ever since a carapace of red steel ribbons started to appear, bending around the corner of Fairfax and arcing over the roof of the former Seibu department store, the structure designed by Kohn Pederson Fox has drawn pointed criticism.

Garbage. Obnoxious. Hideous. The Edsel of architecture. Facadism.

And ever since red LED lights were installed along the edge of each ribbon, turning every component of the facade into an undercarriage worthy of a Vin Diesel vehicle, we can add “traffic hazard” to the list. But is it enough to point out the offensive and offer revved up reproach – a model of critique custom-made for our digital lives? After the retorts cool, the museum opens, and we have to live with the eyesore, one wonders if KFP’s design offers any lessons for our architectural now?

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There is a letter in a drawer in Chicago’s Graham Foundation library; a sheet of Orange Coast College stationary dated 8 April 1980. The letter is from artist Barbara Kasten to Florence Henri, a photographer (then in her late 80s and living in Paris) who had been contemporary with many avants of early 20th-century Europe: Jean Arp, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy, who she studied under at the Bauhaus. In it, Kasten asks to visit Henri and interview her as part of NEA-funded project to videotape six female photographers who had made “major contributions in the field” – figures whose work was troublingly dropping out of the historical narrative. 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 …

Let’s talk about the insidious return of hippie architecture. Over the past year, as trend-watchers tracked the disciplinary resurrection of Postmodernism and the painful deconstruction of Brutalism, a shaggier architecture shuffled into the room bringing with it a waft of patchouli.

Viewers of Mad Men know what I mean. A chunk of the show’s finale last month was set in a yurt-esque structure poised on the cliff edge of the Pacific. It was there, in a group sharing exercise, that ad man, philanderer, and searcher-for-identity Donald Draper found his enlightenment surrounded by longhairs and macramé, not bouffanted secretaries and glass curtainwalls. Read More …