LA.IDEA Design Series: Designing the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Molina Family Latino Gallery

“Latino History is American History” was one of the most memorable statements that Eduardo Diaz used while explaining the significance of the Smithsonian Latino Center Molina Family Latino Gallery during LA.IDEA’s inaugural Design Series.

On Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 LA.IDEA AIA|DC hosted its inaugural virtual session of LA.IDEA Design Series focused on the design and vision of the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Molina Family Latino Gallery – the first national Latino gallery on the National Mall – at the National Museum of American History.


LA.IDEA Design Series is a unique Virtual Series created by LA.IDEA DC to recognize Latin American and Hispanic artists, designers, and curators for their professional journey and innovation in the field. The purpose of this series is to inspire not only the Latino/Hispanic design community, but also to extend our reach to a multicultural and interdisciplinary group of professionals. The Smithsonian Latino Center will open its first physical museum space, the Molina Family Latino Gallery, in spring 2022 at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) to celebrate the U.S. Latino experience. The Molina Family Latino Gallery will be the leading interpretive gallery devoted to exploring the richness and diversity of Latino history, culture, and identity in the United States.



The panel discussion was moderated by LA.IDEA’s Past-Chair, José Leo Arango, who introduced the committee and speakers to an audience of more than 90 virtual attendees. The event was sponsored by the Smithsonian Latino Center and consisted of 4 presentation followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A with the attendees.


Eduardo Díaz, Client and Director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, opened the presentation by sharing the mission of the center – The Smithsonian Latino Center unlocks dynamic U.S. Latino stories that shape our national experience and identity. Díaz recognized the Molina Family for commanding the funding aspects of the project and explained the process and vision for the gallery.



Carolina Uechi, Architectural Designer from Quinn Evans introduced the project team and all the different entities working in the design of the gallery. She presented to the audience the location of the gallery and the physical access from the National Mall before explaining the big ideas and project goals: A gallery with assets for future exhibits; Gathering space for visitors; Accessible design for a diverse set of visitor need; Latinos as active participants in history; Innovative and immersive digital experiences; and intergenerational storytelling and cross-cultural experiences.



Mariano Desmaras, Lead Exhibit Designer, and owner of Museum Environments (ME) introduced the concept of Exhibit Design as “the blend of architectural design, graphic design, media, and content management to create visitor experience”. Desmaras, with more than two decades in the field, showcased previous projects that provided inspiration for the Molina Family Latino Gallery.


Andrés Clerici, Exhibit Designer, and founder of the creative studio ORB walked the audience through the four floor plan options presented to the client and shared the reasons that led to the selection of the “Plan Foro” for the gallery. Clerici explained the different design aspects of the project: Sensory nooks, cases, title wall, mapping of the US Latino experience, history consoles, somos theater, learning lounge and gave all the attendees a first glance at what the gallery will look like with renderings. He then concluded his presentation by highlighting the projects graphic hierarchy, color palette, and typography elements used in the gallery.



Carolina followed Andrés’s presentation and built on the space planning and acoustical characteristics of the space. Carolina’s focus of the presentation was accessibility and universal inclusive design. “There is increasing interest in experiential design, where places are designed with all the senses in mind, not just visual experience. It has been shown how this can help with issues like how people find their way around, how comfortable they feel, spending patterns, and how they rate their experience.” – Sensory trust.


Mariano closed the presentation with a description of the project’s art direction focused on focalization, place making, self-representation, co-creation, and re-signification. At the end, the audience had a clear understanding of the gallery’s mission and design feel after looking at all the renderings and impressive graphics.



José Leo Arango, LA.IDEA’s Past-Chair, moderated a Q&A session with the panelist in which they explored topics such as creating identity, challenges of the space, and the gallery’s experience. The virtual floor was then opened to the audience, which was very involved in the presentation and used Zoom’s chat option to ask questions and comment on the presentation.


Watch the full event video HERE. This presentation was AIA accredited and provided the attendees with 1.5 LU’s.


To learn more about LA.IDEA|DC visit our website LA.IDEADC.COM

To learn more the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Molina Family Latino Gallery visit the SLC website. To learn more about the design team visit Quinn Evans, Museum Environments, ORB



Special thanks to the AIA|DC for facilitating the platform to provide this presentation and to José Leo Arango & Juliane Trindade of LA.IDEA|DC for coordinating the event.

Event Sponsored by The Smithsonian Latino Center.

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