Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

In fall 2020, the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab sponsored a six-episode series titled Whither Criticism? to question the state of architecture criticism today, and to ask how the field needs to adapt to address the major crises of our time.

Hosts David Rifkind (Architecture) and Dan Evans (Journalism + Media) welcomed some of the leading architecture critics of our time for a frank and illuminating discussion. Speakers included Lee Bey, Christopher Hawthorne, Inga Saffron, Kate Wagner, Alistair Gordon, and Mimi Zeiger.

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The 2020 Exhibit Columbus Symposium: New Middles gathered national and international thought leaders in architecture, art, design, and landscape architecture together with Columbus stakeholders to explore the question, What Is The Future of The Middle City?

The Symposium examined this question through the lens of four topics:

Futures and Technologies: Dan Hill, Vinnova, Stockholm, Sweden; Radha Mistry, Autodesk, San Francisco CA; Moderated by Marcus Fairs, Editor-in-Chief, Dezeen

Resiliency and Climate Adaptation: Iñaki Alday, Tulane University / aldayjover architecture and landscape, New Orleans; Kate Orff, SCAPE, New York, NY; Moderated by Iker Gil
2020–21 Curator, Exhibit Columbus

Arts and Community: Paola Aguirre, Borderless Studio, Chicago IL; Matthew Fluharty, Art of the Rural & M12 Studio, Winona MN; De Nichols, Civic Creatives, St. Louis MO; Moderated by Anne Surak, Director, Exhibit Columbus

Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking: Chris Cornelius (Oneida), studio:indigenous, Milwaukee WI; Wes Jackson, The Land Institute, Salina KS; Joar Nango (Sámi), FFB, Alta, Finland; Ash Smith, Carson Center of Emerging Media Arts, Lincoln NE; Moderated by Mimi Zeiger, 2020–21 Curator, Exhibit Columbus

Each topic was explored weekly through Thematic Conversations, hosted in partnership with Dezeen, featuring international thought leaders. They were followed by Columbus Conversations featuring community stakeholders in conversation with 2021 Miller Prize recipients highlighting forward-thinking initiatives happening in our community of Columbus, Indiana.

These dialogues have served as foundational research for all New Middles participants—as a kind of Exhibition Design Brief and Community Design Brief — identifying topics, themes, and writings for community partners while growing exhibition participants’ understanding of Columbus’ culture and context as they conceptualize their commissioned installations for the Fall 2021 Exhibition.

Presented as part of the Ada Louise Huxtable and the Formation of the Architecture Critic Workshop held at the Getty Research Institute, organized by Maristella Casciato and Gary Fox. Participants included: Barry Bergdoll, Maristella Casciato, Pippo Ciorra, Meredith Clausen, Gary Fox, Ann Harrison, Anne Helmreich, Thomas Hines, Mary McLeod, Barbara Penner, Emily Pugh, Peg Rawes, Suzanne Stephens, Wim de Wit, and Mimi Zeiger.

Questions of criticism in relationship to time have been on my mind lately. So, I wanted to start with a quote from Huxtable taken from her 1969 review of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction published in the New York Times under the title “The Case for Chaos”:

Today’s theory is tomorrow’s practice. With the speedup characteristic of our age, it has a way of becoming today’s practice. Any thinking feeling citizen involved with his environment in this latter part of the twentieth century (that’s right—latter—with all the “projections” to the one awesome remote year 2000 no more than comfortable middle age for the present generation) must know the wave of future or succumb to the undertow of the past.

—Ada Louise Huxtable, New York Times, January 26, 1969

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2018 Design Trust Seed Grant

“Criticism Now: Developing Architecture and Design Criticism in the Pearl River Delta” is a weeklong English writing workshop that aims to develop new critical voices in architecture and design in Hong Kong, a place that needs more communication channels to represent its growing creativity in architecture, design, and urbanism.

The Hong Kong workshop is one in a series of critical writing workshops led by Zeiger, organised by DESIGN TRUST. She has taught workshops internationally, including at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Harvard University in Cambridge, the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and the Aformal Academy in Shenzhen. Outcomes from this workshops include pamphlets, broadsheets, billboards, websites, debates, and performances. In a Hong Kong context, Criticism Now will add long-form essays and interviews to the body of work produced.

Additionally, Criticism Now brings together writers and editors for an in-depth discussion with the participants on present and future of design criticism in the Greater Bay Area.

The workshop has a creative format where participants work in a diversity of HK spaces, from an academic library setting, a co-working space, the newest “co-living” HK community area, in- between public spaces, to a bookstore context, to explore the act of critical writing using the city of Hong Kong and the local design community as both subjects and instigators.

Published participant essays:

Melody Yiu, Does the Xiqu Centre Live Up to Its Promise?, Zolima City Mag
Viola Gaskell, Why Hong Kong’s Buildings Are Clad in Bathroom Tiles, Zolima City Mag
Diego Caro Serrano, The Strange Intimacy of High Density, Zolima City Mag
Natasza Minasiewicz, New Modesty: In Conversation with Studio MLKK, Design Anthology

Co-curators of the U.S. Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Ann Lui and Mimi Zeiger, will give insight into the curatorial practices and research leading into Dimensions of Citizenship. Interrogating the spatial conditions of design and citizenship, their exhibition will present works by architects, designers, artists, and thinkers who are responding to today’s shifting modes of citizenship, and putting forth visions of future ways of belonging. Future Firm co-founder and School of the Art Institute of Chicago professor Ann Lui, and architecture critic Mimi Zeiger, are curating the exhibition along with University of Chicago architectural history professor Niall Atkinson, and associate curator Iker Gil, founder of MAS Context.

March 27, 2018 – 6:00pm
Art & Architecture Building
Taubman College, University of Michigan

A&A Auditorium (room 2104)

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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At a time when digital media makes everyone a critic and a curator, Mimi Zeiger discusses how those titles dovetail in her work. She’ll present her approach to several projects, including Dimensions of Citizenship, the upcoming 2018 U.S. Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tu Casa es mi Casa, and Now, There: Scenes from the Post Geographic City. She’ll investigate how collaboration, structure, research, and critique shape exhibition making.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

SVA MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism
136 W 21st St, Second floor
New York, NY 10011

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

Los Angeles, being the inclusive city that it is, developed in opposed directions at the same time: the downtowns, Wilshire Boulevards, and Century Cities grew along late modern lines, while the peripheries went their own heteromorphic way. This sixties split established what has now became two architectural codes: Mies of the classes, and hetero-architecture for the masses.”- Charles Jencks, 1996.

The collision of Real Estate speculation and political friction makes Los Angeles one of the most volatile development arenas in modern urbanism. Yet, after a half-century of under-building and spot zoning, an infusion of speculative capital, coupled with a dearth of available land, is driving Los Angeles to grow up, instead of out. Present debates about homelessness, housing affordability, and urban density suggest that L.A. could embrace vertical density in a decidedly different fashion than Chicago or Manhattan- cities which adopted skyscraper development primarily as a response to technological innovation or financial speculation. While L.A.’s metropolitan context largely consists of what architectural theorist Charles Jencks once referred to as “heteromorphic architecture,” its growth upward signals the potential to give birth to a new urban form of spatial democracy, eschewing a city of iconic towers in favor of sectional and programmatic complexity instead.

Join us for a Panel Discussion centered on L.A.’s future density led by Archinect’s Amelia Taylor-Hochberg and featuring architects Scott Johnson, Jimenez Lai, John Southern, Peter Zellner, and journalist Mimi Zeiger.

The panel coincides with John Southern’s exhibition, Hot on the Heels of Love: Sensational Speculations– Now on view at the Jai&Jai Gallery.