Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Billed as ‘the first NFT house in the world’, the Mars House is a tenuous entry into the architectural cannon. The project by Toronto-based digital artist Krista Kim is one of an increasing number of ‘non-fungible token’ works of art made to be bought, sold and collected online and authenticated via blockchain technology.

A home that will never be lived in, Kim’s NFT offering is a moody visualization rendered by Mateo Sanz Pedemonte using the video game software Unreal Engine. It depicts a structure sitting in an otherworldly landscape of supposedly Martian red mountains. We are given the barest hints at possible enclosure: a rectangle of digital glass impossibly transparent with no depth or reflection. The ghost façade bears the fingerprints of all vitreous abodes that came before – Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Pierre Koenig, etcetera. A thin, abstracted roof evokes Ed Ruscha’s Burning Gas Station (1965-66). The swimming pool is Hockney blue. The water ripples to a soundtrack composed by Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Schroeder.

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“Reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays,” wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World, and the sentiment is acute nearly 90 years later. The pandemic has intensified and accelerated a digital drift, as culture turns to the virtual— to Zoom, Animal Crossing, or TikTok—for ways to escape and normalize current conditions. Going on a reality holiday, however, risks setting up a needless opposition between activities in our daily lives and our online interactions. The truth is that we are all operating somewhere in between—and it is this middle ground where a number of emerging artists, architects, and designers are staking out territory, using this nonbinary space to address questions of subjectivity and identity.

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The third edition of Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) opened its doors one day before Chicago school children gathered in Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Plaza as part of the Global Climate Strike. It begins during a month when President Trump feuded with California over housing policy and the state’s homelessness crisis, and at a time when shootings in Chicago’s West and South sides are reported every few days and the fires in Brazil continue to burn.

It was a week, like many weeks in recent memory, which underscored the themes of the biennial curated by artistic director Yesomi Umolu, curator/educator Sepake Angiama and architect Paulo Tavares.

Although its lowercase title …and other such stories might suggest a more recumbent position, this biennial is teaming with anthropogenic urgencies: violence caused by structural racism, global housing inequities, and scars left by colonisation and resource extraction.

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Sarah Whiting will become the first woman dean of Harvard’s GSD, joining a growing contingent of female leadership in academia. But will such appointments bring equity to the profession?

On July 1, when Sarah Whiting steps into the job of leading the most prestigious architecture school in the country, she will be the eighth dean and the first woman to helm Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. And while her appointment is a personal and professional achievement for Whiting, it also marks a sea change for an institution still grappling with the aftermath of architecture’s #metoo moment. Last year, faculty and student populations alike petitioned for reform.

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field. Read More …

It’s an uncharacteristically wet day when I meet with Los Angeles–based architect Clive Wilkinson at his office in Culver City, a mixed-use building he designed in 2012. Wilkinson is a bit of a coffee snob, so it makes sense that his ground floor tenant is Cognoscenti Coffee, which serves some of the best brews in the city. Despite the downpour, brave souls on laptops shelter under the overhang formed by the stairs leading to the reception desk at Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA).

It’s a tableau indicative of our time—of how we work now. Work is itinerant and flexible. Work is everywhere and anywhere there’s Wi-Fi and espresso.

Given the transient nature of our contemporary work lives, supported by a host of mobile devices, the actual need for an office might seem unwarranted. But Wilkinson believes in the workplace as a kind of urbanism, as community, and as a theater for everyday life—his book, “The Theater of Work,” is scheduled to come out in February. For close to three decades, he’s been at the forefront of workplace design. How, why, and where we work is central to his award-winning practice. Read More …

Last March, #MeToo finally came to architecture. While the specifics of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Richard Meier, white-haired lion of the New York scene, were indeed shocking, many in the discipline were wondering what took so long.

In the months between the accusations that brought down Harvey Weinstein and others in Hollywood, comedy, and media, women in architecture asked one another, “Who will be ours?” Via back-channel messages we speculated about prominent and charismatic figures with reputations for bad behavior. Which architectural heavyweight would be first to fall?

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Dimensions of Citizenship, the theme of the US Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, co-commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the University of Chicago, challenges architects and designers to envision what it means to be a citizen today. As transnational flows of capital, digital technologies, and geopolitical transformations expand, conventional notions of citizenship are undermined. How might architecture, then, express, and engage with today’s rhizomatic and paradoxical conditions of citizenship?

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The Chicago Athletic Association excitedly welcomes Petra Bachmaier to discuss her dynamic collaborative art practice which has captivated the eyes and minds of Chicago and beyond. And Mimi Zeiger, a Los Angeles-based Critic, Editor, and Curator to moderate this conversation.

“For more than 10 years, Luftwerk have created art installations that merge elements of light and video with facets of architecture and design. Their 2010 commission to create a new media exhibit for the centennial celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House helped them discover a deeper resonance with architecture and pursue and a growing interest in how experiences of space and site are augmented through light and sound. With immersive works at sites such as Fallingwater, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, Tampa’s Kiley Garden, Chicago’s Millennium Park, the Garfield Park Conservatory to name a few, their artwork blends history, architecture, and contemporary media to open new aesthetic conversations within public spaces. Projects to date have been featured in periodicals such as Architectural Record, Dwell, The Creators Project, design boom, and more. Recent awards include an Endorsement Award for Innovation from Surface Magazine, a Media Art Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and featured projects honored by the American for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN). Petra Bachmaier, originally from Munich, works collaboratively with her partner Sean Gallero. The duo met during studies at SAIC and formed Luftwerk in 2007.” – David Zivan

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MDP Design Dialogues Symposium + Exhibition with Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker, and Mimi Zeiger
November 17–26, 2016
November 17, 2016, 6:30–9 pm
SYMPOSIUM + OPENING RECEPTION

The Algorithm in the Room: An Evening of the Post-Geographic brings together an interdisciplinary group of designers and thinkers to discuss relationships between algorithmic and spatial practices. The algorithm in the room is the unspoken technological subject that reorients our understanding of design outcomes, ethics/politics, and authorship. Yet to concretize the algorithm, to try to peg down its functional uses within design is to misunderstand its potentially slippery (and productive) role as a bad collaborator. Feral and unpredictable, it provokes human, systemic, and urbanistic response. Via conversations and through digital, video, and screen-based works, this symposium and exhibition looks to raise difficult questions regarding the politics of predictive/automatized software, its architectural and urban impacts, and the aftereffects of recalibrated design agency. Speakers include: Jeff Maki, urban strategist and Joanne McNeil, writer. Videos exhibited by John Szot Studio, Tim Durfee + Ben Hooker, Jenny Rodenhouse.
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