Image of Melissa McDonnell Luján and the Collie-Johnson House. Photograph by Casey Dunn.
This week, Lucchese Bootmaker’s blog, The Last Word, released the first post in an ongoing series about the people of Marfa. In the article, entitled People’s Projects: Meet the Marfans, five residents were profiled, including our Deputy Director, Melissa McDonnell Luján. McDonnell Luján, who has a Masters from the Rice School of Architecture, discusses her restoration of one of the oldest structures in Marfa: the Collie-Johnson House.
… the 1894 two-story adobe house on a prominent corner in town was near collapse when her team was called in to save it with their own blood, sweat and tears. The house had been passed through many owners, including Donald Judd, who were all advised to tear the structure down. However, Lujan (who has an M.Arch. degree from Rice) says she gained the courage needed to take on the daunting project from the spirit of the town. “Whenever I’m on site, people will stop by and tell stories. It has special meaning to people who grew up here,” she says. “I even had the chance to walk through the house with a man that grew up in the house during the Depression.”
So in the sweltering summer of 2009, she made 600 blocks of adobe by hand and created a design that honored the house’s original aesthetic while bringing it into modernity. In 2011, she moved to Marfa permanently, being “drawn to seemingly impossible architecture projects in the town.”
One of the most common questions Marfa residents are asked is “why are you here?”. And even though everyone’s answer is unique, this series sheds some light on why many have made this pilgrimage.