Luce et Studio wanted to enliven and add to the Mingel Museum to attract more people to view the folk art, mingei in Japanese, so beloved by the institution’s founder, Martha Longenecker. A ceramicist and professor of art at San Diego State University, she created the museum in 1978 to share her passion for crafts—the art of the people—with the public. It now holds 25,000 objects from 141 countries. The museum’s size grew from 41,000 to 54,000 square feet by reclaiming space all around. A ground-floor loading dock was turned into a 120-seat theater with outdoor amphitheater seating and a roof deck. Flexible gallery space was added to the first floor, which also has a gift shop. The library is now visible through a glass wall designed to draw people in. A new café is accessible from the street, and, while an atrium was enclosed during the renovation, light flows through six glass arches that were originally blind. Newly commissioned original art and furniture are in keeping with the theme of the museum’s collection. They include a Dale Chihuly sculpture; a mural in the new café, which also has a 125-foot metal ceiling inspired by a player piano roll; a 40-foot Valz quartz bench; and tables and chairs by George Nakashima. Benches designed by New York architect Billie Tsien are made from wood salvaged from California wildfires, with armrests fashioned from gnarly tree roots. The curtain in the new theater is made from laser-cut, leaf-shaped pieces of felt.


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