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Johnston Marklee Presents Their Minimalistic Projects!



Sharon Johnston, FAIA, and Mark Lee are the founding partners of the architecture firm Johnston Marklee. Since its establishment in 1998 in Los Angeles, Johnston Marklee has been recognized nationally and internationally with over 40 major awards and numerous publications. Projects undertaken by Johnston Marklee are diverse in scale and type, spanning fourteen countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Recent projects include the Menil Drawing Institute, on the campus of the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, which opened in November 2018; a renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which opened in September 2017; the new UCLA Graduate Art Studios campus in Culver City, California; and the design of the new Dropbox global headquarters in San Francisco.





San Vicente

Los Angeles

The San Vicente office building is located on a busy street at the entrance to a luxury shopping and restaurant district in Brentwood, Los Angeles, and it faces a large open park across the street. Metallic silver paint coats the façade of the two-story structure, reflecting the changing light conditions throughout the day and rendering the stucco underneath almost immaterial. The façade’s color ranges from crisp silver against a foggy sky to the glowing orange of the evening sun. The varying depths of the apertures on the three sides of the building register the varying wall thicknesses, accentuated and given volume by a black and silver palette.


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Vault House


Vault House is situated on a densely developed Californian beach site and challenges the standard prime, single-view typology by applying a strategy of a complex layering of transparent interior spaces. With a series of stacked and unidirectional vaults contained within a simple solid mass, the parallel orientation of the rooms within the house becomes a filter that emphasizes the continuation of the oceanfront view from the beachfront façade to the street. Similar to the paradigm of a shotgun-house, the singular direction of the vaults maximizes the connection of all spaces within a deep building, meanwhile incorporating the ideal exterior landscape of the ocean and horizon.



Hill House

Pacific Palisades

Designed for an irregular hillside lot in Los Angeles, the form of this 3,600 square foot single-family residence results from two economically driven demands: to maximize the allowable volume permitted by the zoning code and to minimize the number of foundations and subsequent footprint of the house. The resulting structure adopts a site-specific form by registering the zoning envelope and optimizing the building volume’s performance on an inclined plane. Window quantities are minimized for privacy while window sizes are maximized for views and ventilation. The overall cladding strategy seeks to minimize the distinction between roof and wall planes while maximizing the differentiation between interior and exterior.



View House


Designed for an ecologically rich site on the Argentine plains near Rosario, this 3,000 square foot house optimizes a compact dwelling space by maximizing the experience of the surrounding views and prioritizing environmental performance. The Taurus shape creates expansive spaces by layering volume and view within and throughout the house. The siting, orientation, and form of the house minimize dependence on mechanical systems, making use of natural light, airflow, and alternative energy systems to create a dynamic living experience directly engaged with the local site conditions.


Porch House

Los Angeles

Porch House is a concrete house built upon a small pad at the top of a sloping hillside. Expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and Will Rogers State Park informed the design to allow the main living space to transform from an indoor to an outdoor experience. While a standard house typology provides living space on the ground floor and private rooms above, the Porch House is reversed in order to maintain an unbroken progression from the street, thereby allowing the living room to expand vertically.


Ark House

Pacific Palisades

Sited on the edge of a large parcel near the Pacific Ocean, the Ark House is a small studio building on the site of Richard Neutra’s 1934 Sten-Frenke House. The design and massing of the structure, which includes a private office suite and guest quarters, is a response to the conditions set forth by the main building. The curved façade of the new structure mirrors and doubles the distinct curved volume of the sunroom in the main house: a signature geometric form in Neutra’s early work in North America.



Mound House


Sited on a plateau at the eastern edge of Marfa, Texas, this single-family house makes use of a traditional building material – adobe brick – together with steel spanning frames to create a courtyard house. The adobe bricks, fabricated and lay by local craftsmen, optimize the thermal properties of the earthen material in the walls orientated towards the east, south, and west, which are defined by smaller openings and maximum sun exposure. To the north, the courtyard plan integrates the spatial qualities of the steel framing with large glazed openings and outdoor patios adjacent to a gallery and living areas. The kitchen, anchoring the two wings in the center of the house, is oriented north with a view through the V-shaped courtyard. The unified, singular pitch of the metal roof visually connects the building mass to the sloping terrain of the site. The new earthen mound surrounding the kitchen to the south, which nearly touches the roof at its lowest point, orients circulation on the site towards the public and private zones of the house from the parking court.


Dropbox Global Headquarters

San Francisco

The interior architecture of the new Dropbox headquarters reflects the changing nature of the workplace today, re-envisioning technology work as a creative and collaborative practice. Custom furniture, fixtures, and wall and ceiling treatments unite the expansive interior, while color and texture gradients signal communal spaces for learning and engagement. With a focus on wellness, daylighting, acoustics, and functional adaptability optimize the capacity of each zone for diverse working and learning modes. Work zones form the core within an existing structure comprised of four ‘sectors’. Moving beyond today’s casual office landscape towards a hybrid Archipelago and Bürolandschaft model, the new plan is defined by flexible in-between conditions that accommodate today’s fluid work practices. The workplace, occupying the perimeter of each sector, is fitted with a functional kit-of-parts comprised of three primary components to support individual and collective work: partition fixtures; custom desking clusters; and soft spaces. The Loop connects ‘local’ work areas with ‘regional’ congregation areas, including the Atrium and the Green Kitchens, along with ‘global’ shared amenities including the Tuck Shop (full-service restaurant) and Dropstops (technical service stations).


Miami Design District


Planning principles from the master plan developed by DPZ founders Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk include walkable streets, alley and passageways, shade gardens, and rooftop landscapes formed by a collection of discrete architectural projects and art installations in a diverse, but coherent, fabric. Johnston Marklee’s façade arcade frames the north end of Paradise Plaza, which terminates the new central walk street of Paseo Ponti. The paseo spans the extent of the four-block development; the new plaza includes a garden with an art installation by Urs Fischer. The Johnston Marklee façade is defined by a structural frame that forms the curtain wall at the ground level, defines the open-air arcade on the second level, and extends as a parapet to frame the rooftop garden and the sky beyond. This parapet is visible from the length of the four-block paseo. The rationalist grid is wrapped in a concave stainless-steel cladding system of reflective and abraded panels. Stripped of ornament, the curved surfaces are modeled and amplified by natural light. The consistency of detail and form, perceived from both the immediate scale of the plaza and the larger perspective of the neighborhood, reflects the presence of the building as part of the extended urban fabric.


Knoll Home Design Shop

West Hollywood

The Knoll retail store in Los Angeles is designed to display furniture for domestic settings, distinct in character from Knoll showrooms for contract office furniture. Inspired by Yves Vidal’s York Castle in Tangiers, Morocco, and the historic legacy of spaces for Knoll, the store is organized around a rich material palette reminiscent of Northern Italian architecture of the 1950s and 60s.


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