Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

The collapse of LA’s Skid Row Housing Trust reveals a lack of investment in the maintenance of supportive housing properties.

‘One of Skid Row’s largest housing providers faces financial implosion,’ ran a headline in the Los Angeles Times in early February. Prospects looked bleak for the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a non‑profit property developer and pioneer in providing housing and services for Los Angeles’ unhoused people. 

A month later, a second article in the newspaper reported appalling conditions in the older single‑room occupancy (SRO) properties: mouldering corridors, broken plumbing, waste and hoarding. There are 29 buildings in the organisation’s portfolio. A little more than half of these are permanent supportive housing (PSH) designed by top architecture firms, while the rest are SROs, constructed in the early 20th century and serving the city’s lowest‑income populations. 

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Much has been said about how we live in a time of acceleration. We strive for fast and interconnected. And yet, a considerable body of discourse takes the counter position, arguing for rest, care, and immobility. In her 2019 book How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell urges us to turn away from the churn, writing, “Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.”

Architecture, too, is caught in the thrall. Although buildings take time, we’re junkies for novelty. Museumbuildings are particular eye candy. Supposed freedoms of art and culture push desires for formal inventiveness. But what would it mean to construct a museum in slow motion?

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“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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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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Construction is abundant across Los Angeles right now, and amid the backhoes and the cranes we are seeing signs of fresh takes on expressive architecture: glass domes, geometric facades, soaring arches. Charges of elitism swirl around big-time architecture, but many of the new designs opening this season promise to advance cultural and social life in L.A., whether with a riverside park that filters rainwater or a campus crafted to uplift the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth.

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