Johnston Marklee Shares Sketches for the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston
Voids are central to Mark Lee’s drawings for the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston. Here, he explains his intentions for the project:
“Since the Menil Collection is the first ground-up building designed specifically for the display of works on paper, the client was looking to make the statement that drawings are important. Sometimes they are seen as the midwife to painting and sculpture. But for many modern and contemporary artists, drawing is the final act. At Johnston Marklee, co-principal Sharon and I use the medium to find the essence of a project. It lends an immediacy that distills complex thinking into a simple set of ideas.
We did a series of sketches for this museum, the result meant to acknowledge the art form. My pen-on-paper sketches illustrate the steel roof of the 30,000-square-foot building, how its openings embrace the oak and magnolia trees planted in three courtyards, which we did with Michael Van Valkenburgh. The intent was to create a journey from outside to inside. The eye adjusts to the light levels, the interiors appropriately darkened for the artwork.
We’ve been working with artists and art spaces our entire careers, but this 30-acre campus is unique. In the early stages, we kept in mind how our structure would relate to the others, such as Renzo Piano’s main building and Cy Twombly Gallery. The low-slung profile of our project evolved from the surroundings, but we also focused on bringing something new to the environment.”
— Mark Lee