Talking Practice: Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee

Three people sitting at a round table with headphones on and speaking to microphones

In this episode of Talking Practice, host Grace La interviews Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, partners and co-founders of Johnston Marklee and Professors in Practice of Architecture at the GSD. Sharon and Mark discuss the beginning of their partnership, which is deeply rooted in a shared connection to Los Angeles. The pair reflect on the demands of oscillating between project types– designing for single-family homes and for institutionally scaled projects– explaining how this spectrum of work influences their working dynamic and office culture. They provide insights into the “art of finding the problem” and how they foster an economy of means through strategies for building components. Mark and Sharon also describe their interest in exhibitions and the significance of interiors.

As practitioners and professors, Mark and Sharon discuss the role of art and history in designing spaces, teaching students and guiding academia. For more on Sharon and Mark’s work, check out Mark’s lecture – “Five Footnotes Towards An Architecture” and Sharon’s spring 2023 option studio – Barnes’ Barns in the Grid of Des Moines”.


Sharon JohnstonHeadshots of Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee and Mark Lee are partners and co-founders of Johnston Marklee and Associates based in Los Angeles. Since its establishment in 1998, the practice has completed a wide range of projects including residential, cultural, and exhibition projects. Notable amongst these are View House in Rosario Argentina, and the Menil Drawing Institute. Their work has earned them national and international recognition with over 30 major awards, and a published firm monograph entitled HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE IS A HOUSE (Birkhauser, 2016).  Sharon and Mark are Professors in Practice at the GSD. Mark recently concluded his role as Chair of the Department of Architecture.


About the Show

Developed by Harvard Graduate School of Design, Talking Practice is the first podcast series to feature in-depth interviews with leading designers on the ways in which architects, landscape architects, designers, and planners articulate design imagination through practice. Hosted by Grace La, Professor of Architecture and Principal of LA DALLMAN, these dynamic conversations provide a rare glimpse into the work, experiences, and attitudes of design practitioners from around the world. Comprehensive, thought-provoking, and timely, Talking Practice tells the story of what designers do, why, and how they do it—exploring the key issues at stake in practice today.

About the Host

Black and White photo of Grace La

Grace La is Chair of the Department of Architecture and Professor of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she served as Chair of the Practice Forum, and former Director of the Master of Architecture Programs. Grace is also Principal of LA DALLMAN Architects, internationally recognized for the integration of architecture, engineering and landscape. Cofounded with James Dallman, LA DALLMAN is engaged in catalytic projects of diverse scale and type. The practice is noted for works that expand the architect’s agency in the civic recalibration of infrastructure, public space and challenging sites.

Show Credits

Talking Practice is produced and edited by Maggie Janik. Research Assistance is provided by Victor Ohene. The show was recorded at Harvard University’s Media Production Center by Multimedia Engineer Jeffrey Valade.


For all inquiries, please email [email protected].