MCA Chicago Unveils New Building Redesign by Architects Johnston Marklee

Kendall McCaugherty, Hall + Merrick

Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, officially opened the dynamic new building redesign by Los Angeles-based architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee on Wednesday, September 6.

Grynsztejn says, “Johnston Marklee understands the strength of our Josef Paul Kleihues-designed building, and they carry a deep respect of history throughout their architectural practice. Their legacy of stellar work—increasingly referenced as a leader in the field—resonates strongly with our interest in making thoughtful interventions to our building, including a new restaurant called Marisol. With this redesign, our distinctive space becomes even more welcoming and flexible for our audiences.”

Johnston Marklee (JML) redesigned select public spaces of the museum to create three major new offerings: Marisol, the ground-floor destination restaurant with an immersive art environment by international artist Chris Ofili; a social engagement space called the Commons on the second floor with an installation by Pedro y Juana; and a new third floor with classrooms and a flexible meeting space that puts learning at the very center of the museum. These new public spaces are connected by a dramatic new staircase that honors the MCA’s original iconic staircase, and an elegant new vaulted ceiling that recalls the barrel vaults in the fourth-floor galleries. JML’s design of these welcoming and vibrant new spaces reflects the changing needs of a 21st-century contemporary art museum while maintaining the integrity of the Josef Paul Kleihues-designed building opened in 1996. This major $16-million renovation converts 12,000 square feet of interior space and coincides with the MCA’s 50th anniversary.

Architect Sharon Johnston says, “We wanted the redesign to respect the history of the building’s grid-based rationalism but create a more natural flow that offers new opportunities for how audiences can interact with the new spaces. Our approach focused on the visitor and the reciprocity between galleries and communal areas that blurs their boundaries and produces more active, multi-use spaces through the building. The idea is that the new spaces can be redefined by artists and audiences over time and will add a lightness and warmth to the building.”

To complement the work of Johnston Marklee, Grynsztejn assembled a creative team comprised of renowned Turner Prize-winning British painter Chris Ofili to create the restaurant environment; Mexico City-based design duo Pedro y Juana who designed a geometric hanging-indoor garden oasis for the Commons engagement space; and Chicago chef Jason Hammel, who delivers an exciting new menu as the chef of Marisol.

Grynsztejn says, “We are thrilled to bring together this world-class artistic team to create this new concept that interweaves art, learning, design, and food throughout the MCA’s public spaces. These creative artists represent both local and global perspectives—their collaboration and mutual inspiration positions the MCA to be a place where today’s visitors can have unparalleled encounters.”

For review of MCA Redesign by Blair Kamin of Chicago Tribune, visit link below:

Chicago-Milan Sister City Event, July 2017

Fondazione Riccardo Catella

Sharon and Mark participated in a discussion with Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, and Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan, at the Fondazione Riccardo Catella in Milan, Italy. Hosted by the Chicago-Milan Sister City Committee, the discussion surrounded the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial, the role of design in future cities, and the cultural relationship between Chicago and Milan.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial opens to the public on September 16, 2017. For more information, visit link below.

Mark Lee at Columbia University GSAPP, NYC - 7/25


Mark Lee will participate in the Arguments Lecture Series at GSAPP, discussing the book HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE: Architectures and Collaborations of Johnston Marklee.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Wood Auditorium
Columbia University GSAPP
Advanced Architectural Design

Mark Lee at Demario Marritimo.KM-278 - Senigallia, Italy


Mark Lee will participate in Demario Marritimo.KM-278. For one night, the Marzocca beach is transformed into a contemporary stage in a series of workshops, debates, performances, video and sound installations, DJ sets, readings, and tastings.

July 21, 2017
6pm - 6am

Lungomare Italia,11
Marzocca di Senigallia

For more information and schedule, visit the link below.

Johnston Marklee at MCA Chicago - Sunday, June 25

MCA Chicago

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee will discuss the MCA’s redesign and their roles as Artistic Directors of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Sunday, June 26

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

For more information and to buy tickets, visit link below.

Mark Lee at agps, Zurich

Reto Geiser

Join Mark Lee and Reto Geiser for an informal gathering and short presentation on HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE: Architectures and Collaborations of Johnston Marklee (Reto Geiser: Editor, Birkhauser 2016)

Monday, May 29, 2017

agps architecture
Zypressenstrasse 71
8004 Zurich

Chicago Architecture Biennial Events – London & Zurich

Chicago Architecture Biennial

Johnston Marklee will be in Europe to present their plans for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Wednesday, May 24 – LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
Thursday, June 1 – ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

For information on these events, please contact

Mark Lee in Conversation at Arcana Books - Los Angeles, May 21

Mark Lee will join Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu in a discussion on SO-IL’s first monograph “solid objectives: order, edge, aura” at Arcana: Books on the Arts in Los Angeles

“solid objectives: order, edge, aura” is a visual and textual manifesto that introduces an attitude towards the design and realization of architecture in an interconnected environment. As a collection of built and unbuilt projects, texts, processes and experiments from the firms fist eight years of work (2008-2016), the book proposes an architecture that requires interpretation.

Sunday, May 21st
4:00pm – 6:00pm

Arcana: Books on the Arts
8675 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232

Johnston Marklee in Conversation with American Academy in Rome- Los Angeles

American Academy in Rome

Join AAR for an interdisciplinary discussion on the role of structures and spaces for cultural and performance use.
Christopher Hawthorne (2016 Resident)
Architecture Critic, Los Angeles Times
Mark Lee & Sharon Johnston (2017 Residents)
Founding Partners, Johnston Marklee
Andrew Norman (2007 Fellow)
Assistant Professor of Composition, Thornton School of Music,
University of Southern California

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Depart Foundation
9105 W. Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90069

The event is free to the public but RSVP required – see link below.

Mark Lee Gallery Talk – Moholy-Nagy: Future Present

Johnston Marklee

Tuesday, April 18
LACMA | Art of the Americas Building

Join Mark Lee and Lorraine Wild for a gallery talk in Moholy-Nagy: Future Present.
László Moholy-Nagy, one of the most versatile figures of the twentieth century avant-garde, believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation and in the value of new technologies in harnessing that potential. A pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, Moholy fluidly moved between the fine and applied arts and conceived of creative production as a multimedia endeavor.

Mark Lee, principal, Johnston Marklee designed Moholy-Nagy: Future Present. Graphic designer Lorraine Wild is principal, Green Dragon Office. Carol S. Eliel, curator of Modern Art, LACMA and co-curator of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present will also participate in the conversation.

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is on view at LACMA until June 18, 2017

For more information, visit link below.

Cleto Munari Exhibit in Vicenza

Francesca Valente

A credenza designed by Mark Lee is featured in an exhibition of the work of Cleto Munari. For more details, follow link below.

MONDOCLETO. The Design of Cleto Munari
March 18, 2017 – June 10, 2017

Palazzo Chiericati
Piazza Matteotti, Vicenza, Italy

Sharon Johnston at AIA Louisiana - Celebrate Architecture

AIA Louisiana

Sharon Johnston will present at:

AIA Louisiana Presents: Celebrate Architecture
Building Relationships

Friday, March 17, 2017
Manship Theatre at Shaw Center for the Arts
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

For More Information, see link below.

Johnston Marklee in “Spaces without drama” at Graham Foundation, Chicago

Johnston Marklee

Johnston Marklee is featured in the exhibition “Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth”

Curated by Wonne Ickx and Ruth Estevez: LIGA Space for Architecture, the exhibition examines the recent proliferation of collage in architectural representation in relationship to scenography and theatrical set design.

The exhibition is presented by the Graham Foundation and will be on view from February 16 – July 1, 2017

Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, IL

For additional details on the exhibition and opening event on February 16, follow link below.

Mark Lee at University of Michigan - February 17

University of Michigan

Mark Lee will present a lecture at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

February 17, 2017 - 6:00pm
Art + Architecture Building, A&A Auditorium

Lecture is free and open to the public. This lecture is part of the PRACTICE SESSION No. 4 Workshop.

For additional information, see link below.

Johnston Marklee Named 2016 US Artist Fellows

US Artists

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee have been named the USA Oliver Fellows, Architecture & Design, United States Artist Awards 2016.

United States Artists celebrates the breadth of American artistic practices, honoring artists across the disciplines of Architecture & Design, Crafts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts and Visual Arts.

To read more about United States Artists and the 2016 Fellows, visit the link below.

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