Architecture – Jean Nouvel unveils the National Museum of Qatar in Doha. The long awaited cultural venue was inspired by ‘desert roses’, flower-like formations that occurs naturally in the Gulf region, when minerals crystallize in the crumbly soil. Colliding concrete discs compose a cutting edge architecture surrounding a historic palace turned into a gallery space.
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Inside, 11 connected galleries create a mile long path narrating the story of Qatar from the geological period through to the present day, A special combination of architectural spaces frames a multi-sensorial journey combining music, poetry, oral histories, evocative aromas, archaeological and heritage objects, commissioned artworks, monumentally-scaled art films, and more.
“To imagine a desert rose as a basis for design was a very advanced idea, even a utopian one.” said Jean Nouvel at the museum’s inauguration. “To construct a building with great curved disks, intersections, and cantilevered angles—the kind of shapes made by a desert rose—we had to meet enormous technical challenges.”
Indeed, it took more than a decade to complete it. However, “this building is at the cutting edge of technology, like Qatar itself. As a result, it is a total object: an experience that is at once architectural, spatial, and sensory,” adds Jean Nouvel.
Like a desert rose, the 52,000-square-meter cultural venue is “the first architectural structure that nature itself creates”. On the outside, the Museum’s sand-colored concrete harmonizes with the desert environment, so that the building appears to grow out of the ground and be one with it. A central court sits within the ring of galleries and serves as a gathering space for outdoor cultural events.
Inside, the structure of interlocking disks continues, creating an extraordinary variety of irregularly shaped volumes. Passing through the galleries, visitors are caught up in the experience of the formation of the Qatar peninsula and its natural habitat, the heritage of life in the desert and on the coast, the political development of modern Qatar, the discovery of oil, and Qatar’s multifaceted relationships today with the larger world.
The 112,000-square-meter public park designed by landscape architect Michel Desvignes surrounds the Museum featuring family-friendly interactive learning environments, walkways, and a lagoon and is landscaped exclusively with drought-resistant native vegetation.
Local, regional, and international artists have been commissioned to create new works, installed both inside the building and outside on the expansive grounds. The National Museum of Qatar guests also cafes, restaurant, an auditorium and a hotel, all fitted with Qatari contemporary artists’ installations.
All photos by Iwaan Baan, courtesy of the National Museum of Qatar.