The Los Angeles–based architecture firm Johnston Marklee, founded by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, have been hired by the MCA to create a master plan for the museum, which includes a redesign and relocation of the restaurant as well as other public spaces. To coincide with the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, Johnston Marklee have designed an intervention in the museum’s current café space that refers to the predominant grid of the building’s original architect, Josef Paul Kleihues, and hints at some ideas being considered for the renovations to come. Inaugurated in 1996, the MCA building was designed on a rigorous grid-based logic which not only influenced the proportions of the spaces inside the building, but also the rhythms of the fenestration and cladding on the exterior. Johnston Marklee’s immersive installation further emphasizes the proportions of this grid system by applying a repeating square graphic on the café walls, as well as creating a gridded ceiling plane that cuts the double height space in half, making for a more intimate scale. This dropped ceiling plane alludes to one idea Johnston Marklee are considering in their redesign of the space, where a mezzanine floor may be inserted into this space to create rooms for art making and meetings above and a social engagement space below. One characteristic of Johnston Marklee’s approach to the masterplan and restaurant project is a deep respect and understanding of the Kleihues building and this intervention for the Biennial is consistent with that rapport.
The installation is presented in the MCA Café on the museum's second floor.