Mark Lee and Sharon Johnston, AIA, in a conference room in their firm's Los Angeles office. The two architects just secured the commission for the Drawing Institute on the legendary Menil Collection campus in Houston, beating out an impressive list of contenders.
Joe Pugliese Mark Lee and Sharon Johnston, FAIA, in a conference room in their firm's Los Angeles office.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) has announced the appointment of Sharon Johnston, FAIA, and Mark Lee, founding principals of Los Angeles-based firm Johnston Marklee, as artistic directors of its second iteration, which will be held September 16—December 31, 2017. The CAB also unveiled its 2017 theme, "Make New History," which will look at the intersections of history and modernity and art and architecture, using the city of Chicago as the lens through which these issues be explored. An artistic statement from Johnston and Lee posted on the CAB's website states:

"Of critical importance in architectural discussion today is the renewed role that history plays in its making. One of the most dramatic ruptures in the evolution of architecture over the last century has been the fissure between history and modernity ... At a time when anything goes, when there is too much information and not enough attention, when architecture does not celebrate shared values, the examination of this renewed interest in architectural history, the role of art and architecture, and their impact on cultural continuity is more pressing than ever before."
Rendering of the Menil Drawing Institute
Johnston Marklee Rendering of the Menil Drawing Institute

In 2012, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne profiled Johnston Marklee for ARCHITECT, describing the firm as having a breakout year, citing its Menil Drawing Institute commission win (over finalists SANAA, David Chipperfield Architects, and Tatiana Bilbao) as one project among the many then keeping its principals busy. And they've remained busy with a variety of further commissions that include several residences, some of which were featured in their recently released compilation, House is a House is a House is a House is a House (Birkhauser, 2016, ed. by Reto Geiser). One such project, Johnston Marklee's Vault House, in Oxnard, Calif., showcased the firm's explorations into how simple geometries can be tweaked to produce complex architectural vaulting. Johnston Marklee was also one of the 120 participants in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, which was titled "The State of the Art in Architecture," in 2015.

Vault House, Oxnard, Calif., by Johnston Marklee
Eric Staudenmaier Vault House, Oxnard, Calif., by Johnston Marklee

The Chicago Architecture Biennial also announced its new executive director, Todd Palmer, whose role as associate director and curator for the National Public Housing Museum gives him a solid foundation in addressing social justice as it applies to public housing. In addition to naming artistic and executive directors, the CAB announced that two of its inaugural sponsors, SC Johnson and BP, will renew their support of the Biennial, with commitments of $2.5 million and $1 million, respectively.