Project Profile: Mingei Museum

Project Profile: Mingei Museum

An interview

An interview with Azusa Yabe, Associate Director at Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design (HLB), and Sarah Gardiner from Zaneen.

Located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park, the Mingei International Museum collects, conserves and exhibits folk art, craft and design. After a three-year closure and a $55-million renovation of its 100-year-old building, the Mingei Museum reopened its doors to the public unveiling a fully transformed space. Zaneen was represented by San Diego Lighting Associates and specified by HLB to “create a beautiful space that showcased beautiful art.” Attention to architectural detail and lighting were critical, as every piece was composed to create a fully luminous experience for the visitors. Zaneen’s expertise helped navigate some challenges, working within the confines of the historic site and contributing to the success of the project. Welcoming more than 100,000 annual visitors, today the Mingei Museum continues its dedication to art appreciation and education.

Sarah Gardiner: What was the project timeline and is there an important/unique significance to the space?

Azusa Yabe: 2016 to 2021, 5 years. 

Working closely with LUCE et Studio, everything about the project was very thoughtful, beautifully detailed and crafted. This is a renovation project with some existing condition challenges, but the challenges were embraced to be a part of beautiful architecture. 

SG: What was the project vision?  

AY: To create a beautiful space that showcased beautiful art. Everything was carefully selected, including lighting fixtures. Anything that was visible to the visitor had to represent craftmanship and design details. 

Copyright Paul Rivera.

SG: Why did you specify Zaneen?  

AY: Appearance to meet the project aesthetic goal. Minimal style and small size as it had to fit within custom metal ceiling feature. Modularity of the system and customization to incorporate emergency fixtures within the design. We had to work with sprinkler locations, emergency fixture locations, and feed points that seamlessly coordinated with custom lengths to integrate with the curved metal ceiling feature. Slight curvature required detailed shop drawings and meetings to review them. Zaneen team was available to work through the details with us until it was right. 

Copyright Paul Rivera.

SG: How did Zaneen contribute in solving these challenges?  

AY: Their expertise and flexibility to accommodate special details.

SG: What was your favorite part about this project?  

AY: Meticulous details to architecture in every corner, just perfect for showcasing MINGEI (folk art).


Hypro is an architectural system that can be individually configurable, creating three-dimensional continuous lines of light. By using different connectors, Hypro can be built into any shape that suits the individual space’s requirements.

Get inspired by Hypro

Centriq is a ceiling track light series that is designed for function and versatility. Centriq uses the Exact Positioning System (EPS), which was designed for precise angling of the spot, particularly when a series of sots need to be positioned to match each other. 

Get inspired by Centriq

Location: San Diego, California

Project year: 2020

Products included: Hypro with Centriq inserts

Specifier: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting DesignLUCE et Studio

Representative Agency: San Diego Lighting Associates

Thank you for reading about the Mingei Museum Project!
The Mingei Museum project recently won an Honorable Mention award at the International Architectural Awards, as well as a special feature in the Architectural Record.  


Any thoughts, questions or suggestions regarding this article we would love to hear from you!

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