Feeling ethnically unrepresented by the nation's newfound homage to ethnicity? One group may have the answer for you: The Latino American Museum Commission (LAMC) hopes to build the National Museum of the American Latino on or near the National Mall, and is in the final stage of figuring out just where it should go.
The new museum is intended to "create a home for the historical artifacts, images, and personal stories documenting over 500 years of American Latino contributions to the United States" and will "serve as an educational tool for the thousands who visit the museum each year, as well as instilling [sic] a sense of pride in the Latino community..." The LAMC was formed by an act of Congress in 2008.
The Museum Commission initially considered and "fully vetted" over 30 sites throughout the Capitol area, narrowing it down to 9 in November 2009, before finally paring it down to 4 sites, all on or near the Mall, as it happens. At yesterday's National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) meeting, the LAMC presented the four finalists. Henry R. Muñoz, the Chair of the LAMC, told the NCPC review team that after canvassing Latinos nationwide "there is a clear preference for a site on the Mall." The NCPC expects to issue its opinion in August, at which point the plans will be sent to Congress. The Commission hopes to find 359,000 s.f. - 310,000 s.f. close to the monumental core for exhibits and 49,000 s.f. located remotely for storage and office space. Though the LAMC recently signed four contracts to kickstart development and planning, Muñoz acknowledged the long process ahead, saying "we'll feel fortunate if that timeline can be shortened to ten years."
In no particular order, the Commission is considering:
1. The Yates Building at 1400 Independence Avenue, SW (pictured right): The administrative portion would fit into the historic Yates building, and a 165,000-s.f. building would be built on the Mall to the north, bisected by Independence Avenue. The museum would offer an entrance on the Mall and would potentially connect underground to the Yates building. The rough designs show the new structure mirroring the height and footprint of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
2. The Whitten Building at 14th & Independence: The LAMC offered up the adjacent parking lot for a new building. This plan also includes building two stories on top of the Whitten building, which the design team likened to the Tate in London. This design would deliver 310,000 s.f., 49,000 s.f. less than the desired amount of space.
3. The Arts and Industries Building (pictured left): The oldest of the Smithsonian buildings offers 99,000 s.f. that would be incorporated as a "public reception area" because it is too narrow for galleries and lacks climate control or proper acoustics for performances. This plan has two options, one in which the Arts and Industries building remains intact with a two-story museum below-grade, the other would use the main building for administrative purposes and as an entrance from the mall, but create a connection to a new annex building.
4. Capitol Site: This proposed site, across from the Botanical Gardens, was envisioned by the McMillan Commission to hold a museum but remains empty. Currently under the control of the Architect of the Capitol, the site would utilize the same footprint as proposed in the McMillan Plan, with an entrance off Pennsylvania Avenue, offering three stories above grade and one below. At 252,000 s.f. it would be the smallest of the proposed buildings.
Fear not, Lithuanians and Somoans, you too may someday have your chance.
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