MAS Context Spring Talks 2021
A Renewed Experimentalism
Exploring Late Modernism


Architectural historian Emily Bills, critic and curator Mimi Zeiger, and author and designer Chris Grimley lectured as part of MAS Context’s 2021 Spring Talks series.


A Renewed Experimentalism: Exploring Late Modernism


On the occasion of the recent release of the book Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern (The Monacelli Press, 2020), the speakers of this event focused on the work of photographer Wayne Thom, explore Late Modernism in architecture, and discuss ongoing efforts to record and document movements and figures whose relevant contribution to architecture deserve a closer look.

Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern is the first monograph of Shanghai-born California-based photographer Wayne Thom, whose documentation of Late Modern architecture constitutes an architectural/visual archive unlike any other.

A crucial primer to late-twentieth-century Modernism, this monograph devoted to Wayne Thom chronicles his photographic practice and the architectural and urban environment in which he worked. An innovative chronicler of the booming West Coast urbanism of the 1960s and 70s, Thom’s photographs of key projects by architecture firms such as William Pereira & Associates, Edward Durell Stone, SOM, Gio Ponti, John Portman, I. M. Pei, and A. Quincy Jones helped establish the idea of cool architectural glamour of the era.

As author Emily Bills mentions in her introduction to the book, a new generation of architects were eager to rework the lessons of Midcentury Modernism. “These ‘Late Modernists,’ as Charles Jenks identified them, tended toward exaggeration, extending Modernism’s theoretical percepts in ways that signaled a renewed experimentalism.”


Suggested readings

Mimi Zeiger, “Wayne Thom photographed the power of 1970s architecture. He’s finally getting his due,” Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2021.

John Hill, “Wayne Thom,” A Daily Dose of Architecture Books, February 18, 2021.

Christopher Hawthorne, “In Wayne Thom’s revelatory show, a generation of L.A. buildings gets needed attention,” Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2015.

Wayne Thom Photography Collection, USC Digital Library.


Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern (The Monacelli Press, 2020)


Order a copy of Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern from Monacelli and use the code THOM20 at checkout to receive 20% off your purchase.

Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern (The Monacelli Press, 2020).



Anaheim Convention Center, Adrian Wilson & Associates, Anaheim, California, 1967. © Wayne Thom.


Denver Art Museum, Gio Ponti / James Sudler Associates, Denver, Colorado, 1971. © Wayne Thom.


CNA Park Place Tower, Hans Mumper, Langdon & Wilson, Los Angeles, California, 1971. © Wayne Thom.


Toll Family Cabin, Carl A. Worthington & Associates, Rollinsville, Colorado, c 1978. © Wayne Thom.


California Canadian Bank, William B. McCormick, Los Angeles, California, 1971. © Wayne Thom.


Bonaventure Hotel, John Portman & Associates, Los Angeles, California, 1977. © Wayne Thom.


Emily Bills is an educator, curator, and author with research interests in urban history and social and environmental justice. She is Participating Adjunct Professor and Coordinator of the Urban Studies Program at Woodbury University. She has published articles in many journals and books, including Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America; Women and Things: Gendered Material Practices, 1750-1950; Engagement Party (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles); and Visual Merchandising: The Art of Selling. Curatorial projects include exhibitions on William F. Cody, Hélène Binet, Pedro E. Guerrero, Catherine Opie, and Richard Barnes, among others. She is the coauthor of California Captured: Marvin Rand Mid-Century Modern Architecture (Phaidon, 2018), and the author of Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern (The Monacelli Press, 2020).

Chris Grimley is an architect and designer at OverUnder, an architecture and design firm in Boston. He is codirector of OverUnder’s pinkcomma gallery, where he has curated more than thirty exhibitions, including several installations about Boston’s legacy of modernism. He cofounded the Design Biennial Boston in 2008, an award program that showcases emerging designers in Massachusetts. He has taught at Northeastern University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. He is coauthor and designer of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015), Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (2019), and the designer and editor of Henry N. Cobb: Words and Works 1948–2018 (2018). | @overcommaunder | @heroicproject

Mimi Zeiger is a Los Angeles-based critic, editor, and curator. She is the cocurator of 2020–21 Exhibit Columbus and was cocurator of the U.S. Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Curatorial projects include Soft Schindler at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City, which received the Bronze Dragon award at the 2015 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, Shenzhen. Zeiger has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Architectural Review, Metropolis, and Architect. Zeiger is the 2015 recipient of the Bradford Williams Medal for excellence in writing about landscape architecture. She is faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and in the Media Design Practices MFA program at Art Center College of Design. | @mimizeiger

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