National Hispanic Cultural Center Plaza Mayor Project/ Cuesta del Sol - CODAworx

National Hispanic Cultural Center Plaza Mayor Project/ Cuesta del Sol

Submitted by Paula Castillo

Client: National Hispanic Cultural Center

Location: Albuquerque, NM, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $80,000

Project Team

Gallery Representation/Promotion

Justin Kouri

Kouri + Corrao Gallery

Project Manager

David Gabel

National Hispanic Cultural Center


Tey Marianna Nunn

National Hispanic Cultural Center


Antoine Predock

Antoine Predock Architect PC


Edward Lujan

NHCC Campus Insight

Local Selection Committee

National Hispanic Cultural center

Family Contributions to NHCC

Lujan Family

Structural Engineer

Tim Salmons

Salmons P.C.


Craig Oresman



Jessy Graham

Security Ironworks


The National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) commissioned this project for the Plaza Mayor, NHCC’s main exterior event and community space. The Plaza Mayor, surrounded by the Intel Visual Arts Building and steps adjacent to the Plaza Mayor, is the iconic space of the NHCC campus. The commission asked for work that was a site-specific commemoration of the substantial contributions of Virginia and Edward Lujan to the creation and continued significance of the NHCC. The LSC was interested in a work of art that ensured continued maximum use of the Plaza Mayor for large crowds and events and reflected the optimism and spirit of service in the Lujans’ vision and connection to the NHCC and its mission. The artwork needed to be durable, non-electrical, low maintenance, and ADA compliant.


My goals for this project were to honor the legacy and contributions of the Lujans' to NHCC without taking up valuable community event space. There was potential for functional work like benches and handrails, but this could not do proper justice to their enormous contributions. The piece needed to speak to the Lujans' stunning generosity and desire to honor the legacy of National Latino contributions while ensuring that the work did not displace precious community space. It was vitally important that the artwork mirrored their expansive vision and so had to include a transcendent experience that elevated the visitor beyond self. After spending hours studying the area, I realized that the un-utilized, lofted, hollowed architectural boxlike component above the Meso-American-styled steps was the space for the work of art. The space below the box was easily accessible and revealed an environment with enormous potential for reflection and respite; an intimate exterior sala with a magical opportunity for watching shadow play and cloud movement. The resulting idea was sensitive to the campus's spatial limits and Architect Antoine Predock's minimal aesthetic while fully enhancing the larger campus by providing an outdoor sala reflecting the personal contributions of the Lujan family.


As a finalist, I sought permission from Antoine Predock to artistically collaborate with his architectural vision for NHCC. I also visited Edward Lujan to thoroughly understand his family's dreams for the NHCC. Under the guidance of Project Manager David Gabel and Director Tey Nunn, the LSC called me back after my initial presentation to finalize the exterior element's color, shape, and skin as necessary to contribute to the campus's visual cohesiveness. This secondary meeting was a critical aspect of the project because it reflected the importance of collaboration between myself, the guest artist, and the employees and tenants of the space. We all worked together to get it just right. Once I entered the commission phase, I met with the adult Lujan children to share my vision, get their feedback, and answer questions. This visit grounded the project in local history and connections and enriched all of our experiences. Next, I worked diligently with structural engineer Tim Salmons on creating construction drawings and specifics for material to honor my original design while providing a safe structural space for visitors to the NHCC. Finally, Tim and I worked closely with Craig Oresman of Hydrocut and Jessy Graham of Security Ironworks to bring all conceptual work to fruition.

Additional Information

Because of campus use schedules and restrictions, we needed the installation to be quick, safe, and seamless. So, the capstone and insert had to fit like a glove inside and outside the lofted box barrel. Although we had the structural drawings and dimensions of the space, the exterior and interior geometries of the actual component were skewed. Additionally, the upper plane of the box was thirty feet off the ground, so it was complicated to get accurate measurements. We enlisted an expert in drone measurements and got exact calculations for all geometries to perfectly size the two pieces for their placement inside and outside the barrel.