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Los Angeles-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee present an installation in the MCA Café
Installation view, Johnston Marklee: Grid is a Grid is a Grid is a Grid is a Grid, MCA Chicago. Oct 1, 2015-Jan 2, 2016. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.


CHICAGO, IL.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents an installation in the MCA Café by the Los Angeles-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee. Led by principals Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, the firm—who have been hired by the MCA to create a master plan for the museum that includes a redesign and relocation of the restaurant, a new visitor engagement space, as well as changes to other spaces—have designed this intervention to coincide with the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. The immersive and experiential design references both the predominant grid devised by the building’s original architect, Josef Paul Kleihues, and their own proposed renovations to come. The exhibition is on view from October 3 through January 3, 2016 and is curated by MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling.

For their MCA installation, Johnston Marklee applies a 2 x 2 square graphic on the café walls, as well as a gridded ceiling structure of aluminum box beams that cuts the double height space in half. This new overhead volume alludes to one aspect of the Johnston Marklee’s proposed redesign of the building, where a mezzanine level could create rooms for art making and gathering above and to activate the current café as a social engagement space below.

While the three-dimensional grid overhead conveys a more intimate scale that may be part of the museum’s future, the graphic applied to the walls reveals the grid logic embedded in the existing architecture, and at the same time exposes the limitations and challenges that such rigorous geometries present.

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are long-time collaborators and received the A.I.A. Emerging Practice Award, Los Angeles Chapter, in 2013. Their clients include art and cultural institutions, commercial developers, and private clients such as the Hammer Museum, Harvard University, University of California, and the Menil Foundation. They are active participants within the architectural education community— both are on faculty in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California, Los Angeles, and they teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and exhibit and lecture internationally. They are currently in the master plan phase of the MCA project that will inform the construction of the new restaurant and educational facilities—set to open in 2017.






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