MCA Chicago announces creative design team for MCA building redesign

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MCA Chicago announces creative design team for MCA building redesign
Conceptual drawing for Commons by Pedro y Juana.

CHICAGO, IL.- Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, has announced the names of the creative team that will reimagine many of the MCA's public spaces as part of an architectural redesign of the building, led by the Los Angeles architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee. The team includes renowned Turner Prize-winning British painter Chris Ofili, who will create the restaurant environment; Mexican design duo Pedro y Juana who will design the Commons, a new social engagement space; and Chicago chef Jason Hammel, who will be the new chef for the restaurant. Grynsztejn says, "We are thrilled to bring together this world-class artistic team for a new concept that interweaves art, food, design, and learning throughout the MCA's public spaces. These creative artists represent both local and global perspectives-their collaboration and mutual inspiration will produce unparalleled encounters for our visitors."

The major redesign of the MCA building begins this fall, converting 12,000 square-feet of the building into public spaces that is free and accessible, from day to night, all while staying within the existing footprint. This will create three important public offerings: a destination restaurant on the ground floor that connects to a new engagement space on the second floor, and a new third floor with classrooms and a flexible meeting space that puts learning at the physical center of the museum. Grynsztejn says, "This project efficiently re-uses the current space to fuel the vital connection between artists and audiences. Every space and service the museum offers should create a meaningful social and cultural experience, and with this redesign, we are positioning the museum to connect with a wider audience that is even more diverse and inclusive."

International artist Chris Ofili will create an environment for the newly redesigned restaurant at the MCA to include at its heart a permanent, large-scale, site-specific artwork-his first museum commission of this kind in the United States.

Chris Ofili's work combines painterly and cultural elements to play on ideas of beauty while carrying messages about black culture, history, and exoticism. His is a highly seductive art of braided connections that draws on a wide range of sources-including jazz and hip hop music, the Bible, and the works of artist and poet William Blake-and works on many levels, physically and metaphorically.

Chris Ofili was born in Manchester, England, in 1968, and currently lives and works in Trinidad. He received his BA in Fine Art from the Chelsea School of Art in 1991 and his MA in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art in 1993. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented internationally, including recent shows at the New Museum, New York (2014); The Arts Club of Chicago (2010); and the Tate Britain, London (2010 and 2005). The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2005), and the Serpentine Gallery, London (1998). He represented Britain in the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and won the Turner Prize in 1998. His exhibition Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic opens at the National Gallery, London, in April 2017.

The chef of the new restaurant is celebrated Chicagoan Jason Hammel, the Executive Chef and owner of award-winning Lula Café in Chicago's Logan Square community. Known for his trailblazing, creative seasonal cuisine, Hammel made Lula Café a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, of which he was an original voice. Hammel was one of the first chefs to source local, organic ingredients and build close relationships with Midwestern farmers, emphasizing freshness and seasonality and adding creative new dishes every week.

Hammel says, "Before I discovered cooking, I used to think of myself as a young, urban artist, a seeker in the world. Visiting the MCA, I found something beyond the galleries-a creative community of people who continually test ideas and the imagination. This is now the space where my team will open a restaurant and take-away counter where, through food, design, and hospitality, we can speak in a way that is inventive and alive, presenting something real, delicious, and contemporary."

Hammel was born in Connecticut and graduated from Brown University, after which he traveled extensively throughout Italy, which made a lasting impact and presaged his career as a chef. He returned to get a MA in English from Illinois State University and then opened Lula Café in 1999. He splits his time between the restaurant and the non-profit food education group he co-founded called Pilot Light, which develops classroom lessons that weave food and nutrition into subjects such as English, math, social studies, and science.

Pedro y Juana is an architecture and design studio in Mexico City, founded by Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss. Together, Galinda and Reuss create dynamic interior spaces, accessible public installations, and smart design objects.

They have been commissioned by the MCA to design the Commons, a multi-use engagement space in the center of the museum. Galindo says, "Our design will create a learning environment that opens up new possibilities to engage and think about the fundamental social, political, and critical framework of art. We are working on translating these ideas into a social typology of a third space, a place that you frequent outside of home or work. We imagine the Commons as an egalitarian space in constant motion, that is flexible and creates a sensation where all kinds of things-even those that are unexpected-can and will happen at all times."

Pedro y Juana are best known in Chicago for Dear Randolph (2015), their distinct interior environment at the Chicago Cultural Center that featured a network of movable lamps, rocking chairs, tables, and a wall tapestry for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Other recent projects have included Anastasia (2016), a courtyard installation of lanterns for the Hammer Museum's Gala in the Garden; the exhibition display for The Natural Order of Things (2016) at the Jumex museum DF/Mexico; and Hotel Palenque Is Not in Yucatan (2014), in which Pedro y Juana worked in collaboration with Montserrat Albores Gleason to produce an exhibition and architectural intervention that was the site of Little Pig Session (Sesiones Puerquito 2012-15) during which they had a roast to prompt a social and conversational experience among attendees.

The award-winning architectural firm Johnston Marklee, who were recently named the Artistic Directors of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, re-imagined the layout of the museum in a new master plan. The firm is recognized for projects in which they collaborate with contemporary artists as well as chefs. Their clients include art and cultural institutions, commercial developers, and private clients such as the Hammer Museum, Harvard University, University of California, and the Menil Foundation. Of the appointment, Madeleine Grynsztejn says, "Johnston Marklee understands the strength of our Josef Paul Kleihues-designed building, and they carry a deep respect of history throughout their architectural practice. Their legacy of stellar work-increasingly referenced as a leader in the field-resonates strongly with our interest in making thoughtful interventions to our building. With this re-design, our distinctive space will become even more welcoming to our audiences."

Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are long-time collaborators and were recently named the United States Artists Fellow in 2016 and received an A.I.A. Emerging Practice Award, Los Angeles Chapter, in 2013. They are active participants within the architectural education community-they teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They lecture and exhibit extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

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