Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2022
by Mui Ho
We can be more relaxed about Covid today, but it is still necessary to be vigilant about big crowds. It is good that many of us are starting to travel a little more and visiting friends and families. My first trip out of Berkeley since Covid began almost three years ago was to San Diego. My main purpose was to visit the newly renovated Mingei International Museum situated in Balboa Park designed by Jennifer Luce. The addition enlarged the new museum to 55,000 square feet and the construction cost $49.5 million. If you are not familiar with San Diego, Balboa Park is the equivalent to our Golden Gate Park in SF but more centrally located and with more cultural activities. There are 15 major museums, several performing art venues and beautiful gardens. The famous San Diego Zoo is in this area.
Mingei means "art of the people" in Japanese and the Mingei Museum is one of the few folk art museums in this country. What inspired me most in the renovation was the process between the architect and the members of the Museum as described by the Museum Director, Jessica Janson. There was continuous dialogue between the architect, the board, staff and members of the museum to address the needs of the museum and how it should serve the public. The architect also worked with artists on how best to exhibit their works. The use of new materials and the use of artist's work incorporated in the new renovation was impressive. Wood tables and chairs by world renown Japanese artist George Nakashima, benches by artists, the acoustic panel made of wool felt behind the bar by Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra. Architecturally, the museum is clean and modern. Natural light was brought into the museum by glazing previously blind wall arches thus still keeping the integrity of the Colonial Spanish building. Most importantly, the ground floor was turned into a public restaurant-shop space easily accessible to the many visitors to the other more restricted museums in the park.
Balboa Park was the site of the 1915 Panama California Exposition, and, unlike San Francisco which tore down most of its similarly exotic Panama Pacific Exposition (both celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal), the Balboa Park buildings have remained to house numerous museums and performance spaces. The park is also the home of the world famous zoo.
The new Mingei Museum in addition to the many venues of Balboa Park might be a good trip if you have not visited San Diego recently.