Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

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 …

The Tokyo architect takes us behind the scenes of the Tamedia headquarters in Zurich, a modern mid rise employing ancient Japanese joinery construction.

Having explored material in every format – from his cardboard tube emergency shelters to his Centre Pompidou-Metz, with its glulam timber roof – the Tokyo architect and his firm now turns their attention to miyadaiku and sukiya-daiku, the Japanese carpentry techniques of tea houses and temples, which use no nails, screws or other hardware. This sophisticated joinery is the main feature of the 10,120-square-metre Zurich head-quarters of Tamedia, a major publisher of newspapers, magazines and online media. Azure contributor Mimi Zeiger spoke with Ban about what makes this style of wood construction both innovative and sustainable. Read More …