More than an open space for a world-class collection of Chicano art, the new Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside, California, transforms a 1964 modernist library into an architecturally distinctive museum full of galleries, gathering areas and an artist-in-residency center on two floors.

Led by the architect Page & Turnbull in collaboration with design architect WHY, the design of “The Cheech” is an expansion of the Riverside Art Museum. This public-private partnership between RAM, the city of Riverside and comedian Cheech Marin—one of the world’s foremost collectors of Chicano art—is the world’s premier center of Chicano art, including painting, sculpture, photography and video art by artists Carlos Almaraz, Judithe Hernández, Gilbert “Magú” Luján, Frank Romero, Sandy Rodriguez and Patssi Valdez, among others.

Photo courtesy of Page & Turnbull

Headed by Page & Turnbull architect John Lesak, AIA, along with Elisa Hernandez Skaggs, AIA, and James Mallery, AIA, the features of the new center encompass a balance of preserving the building’s original New Formalist style and character while incorporating new interiors and system upgrades that meet the needs of a modern cultural venue. Highlights of the 60,000-square-foot center include:

  • Preserving the building’s façade and large decorative entry screens designed to represent doves in flight.
  • Creating a vibrant community gathering space by blending the zocalo, or large front plaza, with the interior lobby for a welcoming, memorable place where guests meet and mingle.
  • Opening a welcoming double-height lobby for exhibits, lectures, events and people-watching.
  • Updating electrical systems and HVAC systems and installing new museum-quality lighting.
  • Revealing the building’s historic character, structure and expansive volumes by eliminating dropped ceilings.
  • Exposing the great open staircase’s stainless-steel rails and handrails and restoring polyester panels that had been covered.
  • Revitalizing the existing entry and accentuating the semi-circular staircase.
  • Retaining plaster dome ceilings and ball lighting, both characteristic midcentury modern design elements.
  • Retaining existing stainless steel, wood doors and window frames.

Page And Turnbull Chicano Art Museum Picture 3

Photo courtesy of Page & Turnbull

Retrofitting the adapted library with new systems allowed for a 40 percent improvement in operating efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 14,062 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which amounts to recycling 4,783 tons of waste.