Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

“This is the beginning of a cultural institution,” said Morphosis principal Thom Mayne in late September, seated in the plaza of the nearly completed Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), in Costa Mesa, California. Behind him, VIPs dressed in black tie streamed from the valet to the white-on-white lobby for an exclusive opening event on the structure’s upper terrace. The $94 million building—its swooping prow jutting like a glazed pompadour from the facade—opened to the public on October 8.

Located at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a suburban campus studded with architecture by Pelli Clarke Pelli and Michael Maltzan Architecture, Morphosis’s 53,000-square-foot museum is the last piece of a plan devised by civic leaders and philanthropists in the late 1960s and begun in the ’80s. It was designed to cluster Orange County’s arts organizations—like a food court for culture where you can catch the symphony, a touring production of Hamilton, and now an art exhibition.

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The architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are seated at the long conference table in their Los Angeles office. Stacks of art and architecture books are piled in front of them, forming a landscape of references and influences. Lee picks up a sizable monograph, opens it to an image, and places the book on top of the pile. Thomas Ruff’s Sammlung Goetz (1994) fills a double-page spread. The photograph is a deadpan portrait of a contemporary art gallery in Munich designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog + de Meuron.

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Tras una década en desarrollo, el viaducto de la Calle Sexta de Los Ángeles abrió al público a principios de julio de 2022 entre fanfarria y caos. Diez pares de arcos de concreto, cada uno inclinado expresivamente hacia afuera 9 grados, se iluminaron con luces LED azules y rojas. El alcalde de Los Ángeles, Eric Garcetti, se unió a políticos locales y al arquitecto del puente, Michael Maltzan, para el corte de listón y los eventos de apertura que dieron la bienvenida a los residentes de Los Ángeles para ocupar la carretera de poco más de 1 kilómetro de largo antes de que se llenara de tráfico de automóviles.

Construido en 1932, el puente art déco original fue demolido en 2016 debido al deterioro de su integridad estructural, causado por reacciones de álcali-sílice, o “cáncer del concreto”. Su reemplazo es un viaducto atirantado con un costo de $588 millones que cruza el río L.A., uniendo el canal de concreto que se hizo famoso en películas como Terminator 2: Judgment Day y Repo Man. A medida que la carretera conecta el vecindario de Boyle Heights con el Arts District, anteriormente industrial y ahora gentrificado, sus arcos saltan sobre 18 pares de vías férreas y la autopista US 101. Durante el fin de semana inaugural, un desfile de relucientes lowriders avanzó lentamente por la plataforma, una representación de la cultura chicana de Boyle Heights.

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The Grand LA is the last lot on Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue to be developed. Located across the street from the iconic Walt Disney Hall Concert Hall on a slope pitched toward City Hall, its site was once a parking lot for jurors heading to the nearby courthouse. For decades, as it sat underutilized and as new office buildings and cultural institutions piled up in Downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill neighborhood, the plot—a centerpiece of the so-called Grand Avenue Project master plan—represented pure potential. Could another piece of esteemed architecture finally pull together this mismatched Acropolis and make it the kind of civic destination so desperately envisioned by late philanthropist Eli Broad and city planners?

Spoiler alert: Nope.

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In Frank Gehry’s oeuvre there are the big, career-defining projects—like Walt Disney Hall and the Louis Vuitton Foundation—and there are the minor works: buildings that have smaller footprints and more humble design ambitions but are fortified with good intensions. Gehry Partners has been dabbling in this latter category of late, first with the Beckmen YOLA Center, a community center and youth music conservatory built for the LA Phil’s youth orchestra housed in a retrofitted bank building in Inglewood, and recently, a new 20,000-square-foot campus for Children’s Institute in Watts.

The firm provided architectural services pro bono to the 100-year-old support organization, which addresses poverty and health inequity. It’s an imprimatur that is as much philanthropic as it is architectural—perhaps even more so, as Gehry’s name conveys instant recognition to board members and donors. “The Children’s Institute is about helping families who are victims of trauma and violence,” said Sam Gehry, associate at Gehry Partners and Frank’s son. “[Its mission] is something that we are passionate about.”

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We explore why it’s so important to be critical about our urban environment, as we delve into the world of architecture-and-design criticism to see how it helps us to better understand and form the cities we live in.

— Andrew Tuck, The Urbanist

One part railroad trestle, one part Sol LeWitt sculpture, the Taylor Yard Bikeway/Pedestrian Bridge traverses the Los Angeles River with a minimalist gesture: An 18-foot-wide pathway seems to float inside a structural grid. The 400-foot-long, traffic-cone-orange steel-frame structure is part of a larger revitalization of the 51-mile river, which once was seen as nothing more than a concrete drainage channel. But in the past decade, Angelenos have found a new love of the waterway—especially its soft-bottomed stretches, which are dotted with islands of tall grasses and scruffy trees and edged with the Los Angeles River Trail, a popular greenway and bike path connecting Downtown L.A. to Griffith Park.

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ADUs will not solve L.A.’s housing crisis. Last February, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority gathered staff and volunteers for the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time Homeless Count, its first since the start of the pandemic. When the count was last conducted in 2020, close to 67,000 people were reported unhoused in Los Angeles County, a place where the median single-family home price is just over $800,000. Both the number of people who live in tents, in cars, and on the street and the cost of buying a home continue to rise more than 10 percent annually. These figures should leave us aghast and angry, but in California these yearly escalations have a numbing effect, even as the underlying precarity remains real and insistent.

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Nearly every article about the demolition of the old Sixth Street Viaduct in 2016 mentions Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In Los Angeles, where every location is scenery, the iconic, double-arched span played backdrop to the Skynet apocalypse. Architect Michael Maltzan, designer along with engineering firm HNTB, of the new expressive, ribbon-like Sixth Street Viaduct, has a rosier vision—one of equity and accessibility. L.A. infrastructure, however, is linked to unjust acts of clearance and partition, localized catastrophes not always captured by Hollywood. Can a new bridge rewrite the narrative?

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Since the 1970s, Barbara Kasten (born 1936) has developed her expansive photographic practice through the lens of sculpture, painting, theater, textile and installation. Well known within photographic and contemporary art discourse, the Chicago-based artist has recently begun to be reconsidered within the broader context of architectural theory. This survey contextualizes Kasten’s investigations into how moving images and light play within and through architectural forms.

Alongside full-color plates, the book features a long-form interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, whose 2019 Chicago Marathon stage was designed by Kasten, as well as a number of essays: artist Irena Haiduk discusses Kasten’s collaborations with corporations such as Polaroid; curator Humberto Moro explores the relationship between Kasten’s constructions and midcentury architects from Mexico and Brazil; curator Mimi Zeiger examines the Bauhaus movement from a feminist lens; and editor Cristello recalls historical moments that provide a “stage” through which to consider Kasten’s formulations of space as cinema.

Edited with text by Stephanie Cristello. Text by Irena Haiduk, Humberto Moro, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mimi Zeiger.