Mimi Zeiger is a journalist and critic based in Los Angeles, California. She primarily writes about architecture, urbanism, and design as well as art and pop culture for publications such as The New York Times, Domus, Dwell, Azure, and Architect. She is the author of three books on modern architecture and design: New Museums which looks at contemporary museums around the world, Tiny Houses showcases houses less than 1000 sq. ft, and Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature focuses on sustainability and the tiny house movement. Mimi is also the founder of Loud Paper, an open source architectural and pop culture zine and now blog that started in 1997. She speaks at many conferences and seminars on the relationship between architecture, art, urban space and pop-culture.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Mimi and talk about her inspiration and opinions on modern design.
J: What drew you towards architecture?
M: At age 13, my parents took the family on a trip to Egypt. I really loved the ancient temples, which were huge and made a big enough impression to make me want to be an architect. There is very little from those temples that translates into how I look at architecture and design today—I don’t have grand ambitions to build monumental architecture (quite the opposite)—but they were the impetus.
J: How did you get into journalism?
M: I got into writing about architecture when I was a grad student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). For my master’s thesis I decided not to design a building, since I had done a lot of that as an undergrad student at Cornell. Instead, I founded the zine Loud Paper. I was interested in where architecture meets the world around it and all the art, music and culture that is difficult to design into a building. A couple years after founding the zine, where I was writing and editing articles, I was contacted by Dwell magazine to write for their very first issue and my freelance career began.
J: What influences you most about design?
M: I’ve always been interested in the history of architecture and the way that culture on the whole perceives design—like the way the Simpsons incorporated a Frank Gehry building into an episode or Ice T’s take on the Eames. I love mash-ups between high and low culture like the book Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
J: In your opinion what makes for good architectural design?
M: I was trained by modernists, so I will always think that good design is about beautiful light, flow of space, and materiality. That said, good architectural design is not always the most interesting or conceptual. Good design can be boring. Complexity, friction, or even austerity can make for provocative architectural experiences that are more satisfying than good.
J: What do you see for the future of modern home design?
M: Given the economic situation and the fall out of the mortgage crisis, it seems that the future of the modern house is limited as a freestanding structure. Cities are becoming denser and real estate in places like LA, San Francisco, or New York City demand smaller, multifamily units.
~ the Flüffians