Text description provided by the architects. Diablo Rosso is a creative think tank and art gallery established in 2006 and based in Panama City. Since its birth, SKETCH and Diablo Rosso have worked together in the design of spaces that foster critical thinking towards arts, politics, and culture. The gallery has recently relocated to the ground floor of a landmark commercial building dating from the 1930s; recognized for formerly being one of the largest department stores in the city and due to its prime location across Santa Ana square, a meeting point for the community and heart of the Santa Ana neighborhood. Today this busy commercial street is a bustling pedestrian avenue crowded with street vendors and loud music; a one of a kind scenario that boosts the gallery’s main driver: encourage the public’s appreciation for contemporary art through the generation of impact in the surrounding community.
The design team at SKETCH has been involved from the start of the creative process, starting with the selection of the space and being involved with some of the preservation and restoration works on a few architectural components that remain intact, such as an original terrazzo floor that was discovered in a part of the gallery and the restoration of the original façade openings. The project also seek to respectfully integrate the gallery program within the historic building, highlight the sense of place in order to benefit Diablo Rosso’s cultural agenda while creating a space that allows the appreciation of the exhibited art pieces as well as the historic and architectural value of the building.
This project aims to part away from the traditional white cube gallery, creating one that is actively engaged with its surroundings. Through the restoration of the building’s original facade, full height glazing allows daylight to flood the gallery space and, viceversa, lets its contents to be viewed from the square across the street. At night, the gallery lights up the sidewalk – presenting its current program to anybody that walks by; proposing new interactions, encounters, ideas and discussions within the neighborhood. This intervention lends itself to the city as a lamp by night and as a window by day —showing itinerant exhibitions throughout the year— appealing to the curiosity and to the senses of the passerby.
The internal distribution has been thought out to enhance this feeling of looking through. The information desk has been located in the center of the gallery, away from the view of the street to be less intimidating to the visitors. Further back a small storage room, restroom and mechanical room are tucked away from the public’s view, next to a second and smaller exhibition space that also serves as a projection room if necessary.