PRP Now! Alicia Chen // Johnston Marklee

August 27, 2019
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I’m currently working at Johnston Marklee, a practice based in Los Angeles which consists of about 20 people. The firm concentrates on residential, commercial, and institutional work, and places intentional value on art history and contemporary art practices.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
It has been a blast living in LA. There are tons of things to do, and I will never not talk about how great the weather is here. I love living so close to the beach; I’ve spent quite a lot of time there since it’s so easy to get to. Public transportation is actually not bad and sometimes more preferable to driving - LA traffic is truly like none other. There’s so much good food and almost every spot is vegetarian/vegan friendly. Also, getting a glimpse of the active and diverse architecture community in LA has been pretty awesome.

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
At my workstation are some books on John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Bernd & Hilla Becher, as well as a spread of test collages for the Philadelphia Contemporary, a project that JML was recently selected to design. Simultaneously, on the other side of the office in the model-making space, I am working on a large physical model of a high-end gallery located in LA, currently in the SD phase.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The LA office culture is comfortable, casual, and relaxed, though at times it can become quite serious and fast-paced. Each team shows major commitment toward their project, and everyone is really friendly, always willing to help, and eager to share ideas, feedback, and insights. The office also has two extensive libraries filled with books on architecture and art. It isn't uncommon to find someone in a seat from the office’s collection of fun chairs, flipping through some pages in the middle of the day. Once in a while, we kick back with some food and beers to celebrate a birthday or just the end of a tough week. We are all especially spirited when Mark, one of our principals, returns from the Cambridge office and treats us all to Dim Sum!

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
I have no regrets coming to LA, and I highly recommend it for those of you who might find Austin a little too confined and NYC a little too intense. Also, your chances of meeting your A-list celebrity crush is exponentially higher… in fact, I got to meet mine!

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
Not every weekend is activity filled but this one happens to be! A friend is going to be in town, so we'll be checking out Isozaki's Museum of Contemporary Art and exploring downtown LA. There is also a celebration for the launch of a new series of collections at the Architecture and Design Museum that I am pretty stoked about attending.

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
PRP really presents an awesome opportunity to do something out of your comfort zone. Six months is the perfect amount of time because there is no pressure to commit. Just go for it!