“It’s an important moment to aspire to a big gesture of change. This project with Mingei is a perfect confluence—it’s about the Park, the craft of fine art, and good design. And it’s one of the most authentic and humble institutions in the city that I believe in. It couldn’t be a better fit.”

Jennifer Luce Founder and Principal, LUCE et studio Donate

Great spaces inspire great exchanges.

Mingei International Museum has embarked on a major transformation of its facility on the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park, one that will redefine its relationship to the Park, the San Diego region and the world. The plan expresses a dynamically renewed commitment to the Museum’s vision and the community it serves.

Through a series of visitor surveys, stakeholder interviews and tours of other museums, Mingei reaffirmed its mission to open up the Museum space for maximum engagement and collaboration and expand access to collections, exhibitions and educational programming.

A free plaza level places visitors at the center.

Art belongs to everyone. With a gallery, store, restaurant and center for learning, the free plaza level will be accessible from six public entries running east to west, with an additional 1700 square feet, opening the Museum to expansive meeting, making and learning opportunities:

  • lively new civic space to gather on the Plaza Level, with free admission for everyone
  • inviting courtyard garden next to the Plaza de Panama and upper-level terraces with breathtaking views
  • dedicated education center for K-12 students, as well as space for students of all ages to engage in hands-on artmaking
  • beautiful multipurpose theater space for performances, lectures and demonstrations
  • stunning galleries and library upstairs, with access to the House of Charm’s iconic tower
  • inspired shopping and dining

The second level will be devoted to exhibitions and research, with its main galleries, and art and media library. Mingei is also giving back to the City of San Diego through the addition of green space and restoration of its historic home, The House of Charm.

Rendering of the new Education Center at Mingei will provide space for making, learning and diving deeper into the creative process. Elements include a dedicated classroom for programs serving all ages, along with an office for docents and volunteers and ample space for school groups to gather, store backpacks and belongings and access art supplies.
Education Center, a light-filled wing.

“I’m impressed with Mingei International Museum’s vision and courage in embarking on a transformational project that embraces the community and increases access for everyone to the Museum’s collections. By going big, Mingei reflects the audacity of Balboa Park’s founders in providing enticing public spaces open to all.”

Todd Gloria, Assemblymember, California

Education Center

Mingei educational programming facilitates engagement with our diverse museum collection, celebrating the value of seeing the world in new ways. We’re committed to partnering with institutions and working artists to forge a deep understanding of folk art, craft and design processes. The new Education Center facilitates hands-on learning—from its dedicated classroom and meeting space for docents and volunteers to ample room for school groups to gather.

Family Sunday.

Multipurpose Theater

Mingei will transform a non-functional loading dock into a gorgeous, new 1700-square-foot multipurpose theater space for inspiring lectures, concerts, films, dinners and special events. It will feature 13-foot ceilings, telescopic seating and state-of-the art lighting and audio-visual systems. A sleek 35-foot glass wall will directly offer views of expansive landscapes.

This rendering depicts the multipurpose room and the Garden Courtyard directly above.
Rendering of the garden courtyard atop the multipurpose theater.

Outdoor Spaces

By creating new public outdoor areas, a transparent relationship to the iconic Plaza de Panama and connection to Alcazar Garden emerges. While the garden courtyard directly above the multipurpose theater provides an intimate public space, a mural from the Museum’s permanent collection, Variations on a Gold Theme by Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley, will offer a stunning backdrop for private events, film projection and temporary exhibitions in the courtyard. Moreover, not since 1915 have the building’s upper terraces been open to the public. They will be reclaimed with breathtaking views of the Plaza and California Tower, Palm Canyon and the garden courtyard.

Garden courtyard at night.

Art Collections and Library

We’re building a new way to immerse in and explore the art of Mingei on the second level, devoted to art and research. The exhibition spaces and art reference and media library will showcase our collections. An elegant boardroom will feature the Museum’s sweeping Nakashima table for meetings and events and to incite far-reaching discussions.

Rendering of the new Mingei International Museum Library
Rendering of the new Mingei International Museum Library

Stairwell and Tower

A new staircase will spill out of the House of Charm tower, creating an informal amphitheater for gathering and an inviting entrance to the second level and its iconic tower. The new grand staircase will house the Museum's signature Chihuly chandelier, Enlightenment, with the top of the tower made circular to enhance the glasswork. A skylight will flood the interior with light, reflecting off the white marble of the spiral stair, showcasing the effects of the oculus.

Staircase from the Plaza Level leading up to the Gallery Level.

Art Storage and Staff Offices

Behind the scenes, Museum Staff will be brought together in a collaborative, efficient office environment on the lower level of the building. The newly designed workspace will allow for improvements to art storage, and easy access to art handling and conditioning.

Balboa Park Amenities

As we build the future, we’re also rebuilding the past, restoring historic integrity to the House of Charm and reducing environmental impact:

  • restoring attributes of the original 1915 building by reenergizing the once-utilized upper terraces for visitor use and enjoyment, and also the Alcazar Garden entry
  • revealing the building history to visitors through the construction of a new grand staircase and reclamation of a tower
  • adding solar energy systems for all tenants and achieving LEED Gold Certification, plus upgrading to meet and exceed code requirements including ADA and egress
  • repairing dilapidated terrace roofing, installing a much-needed freight elevator, moving a transformer and replacing a chiller for all tenants of the House of Charm

“We’re pleased to share the House of Charm with the Mingei for many more decades as the Globe continues to pursue its mission to serve the public good.”

Timothy J. Shields, Managing Director The Old Globe Donate Today
Stairwell with Chihuly sculpture.