The architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are seated at the long conference table in their Los Angeles office. Stacks of art and architecture books are piled in front of them, forming a landscape of references and influences. Lee picks up a sizable monograph, opens it to an image, and places the book on top of the pile. Thomas Ruff’s Sammlung Goetz (1994) fills a double-page spread. The photograph is a deadpan portrait of a contemporary art gallery in Munich designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog + de Meuron.
Envision an institution dedicated to making art. It is not a museum, nor is it a gallery. These are the spaces where art meets a public or, more crassly, where art meets its market and is given value. Instead, think of a studio environment. Can that same environment also foster in pupils the canny balance between creativity and pragmatism required to break into the art world today?
Artist Catherine Opie offers a hopeful yes, pointing to the new art center at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, where she has taught since 1992. (She was named Lynda and Stewart Resnick Endowed Chair in Art this past December.) “Students are so incredibly vulnerable, and we live in a vulnerable time,” says Opie, whose work as a photographer often draws out the relationships between identity and place. They should feel that their studio building works for them, she adds.