MCA Chicago Extension


Instructors: Sharon Johnston & Mark Lee
GSD 5th Semester Options Studio, December 2015
The Architectural Double in the Museum City

The studio propositioned that one way of examining a city is to look at its collection of buildings as if they are in a museum. This concept, coupled with the idea of the twin, is the premise of the design for the extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where orignal and the double share the exact same program and footprint.

The MCA is lifted off the ground by a plinth, and its elevated, imposing facade is broken by the central staircase. Thus, the stair takes on a rather prominent presence on the facade; it becomes the facade. The double, therefore, expands upon the idea of inhabitable infrastructure and treating circulation as the main frontage of the building.

At each threshold of the double, one is confronted with a wide set of stairs so imposing that it dominates the entire visual field. It serves as both the main exhibition space and the dominant mode of circulation. The interior, with the aid of carefully calibrated lighting and aperture, becomes a kind of pseudo exterior.

The MCA used to provide a view onto the lake. Since the existence of the double obstructs a direct line of sight, the stair automatically presents the question of what is at the end of the climb. The double-height exhibition space not only rewards the museum-goer with a view out west, but also acts as the summit of the whole exhibition sequence.

Designer, illustrator, mathematician.