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The National Museum of Qatar by Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Paris-based Ateliers Jean Nouvel designed the NMQ around the historic Fariq Al Salatah Palace

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National Museum of Qatar, South View
All images by Artefactory, information courtesy of Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors;
© Ateliers Jean Nouvel

The National Museum of Qatar marks the next stage of the Qatar Museums Authority‘s program to develop Qatar into a hub of culture and communications for the Gulf region and the world. After the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art by I.M. Pei 2008 the proposed NMQ will be the next architectural highlight put on the map by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel.

Learn more about the design from Jean Nouvel’s design statement, read about the Museum’s exhibitions and collections from the QMA and check the architectural design fact sheet here on desMena:

The National Museum of Qatar – An identity takes form
A design statement by Jean Nouvel

Qatar is a young nation in the Persian Gulf, a peninsula, a tongue surrounded by water where the desert reaches into the sea.
The Qatari descend from a nomadic Arabian people who settled in this maritime desert.
Some became fishermen, others hunted for pearls. Some looked to the nation’s hidden treasures, the resources that lay beneath the sand or under the sea. Others, inspired by their country’s central location in the Gulf, began to talk, to communicate, to reach out. The impulse for this metamorphosis came from Doha. A glance at photographs of Doha in the 1950s and 1960s, compared with today, is sufficient to understand how much this part of the world has changed. From a little village, it has become a capital. What could be more natural, then, than the desire to testify, to talk about identification, about the evolving identity of this country as it reveals itself on the sensitive paper of history? And what could be more logical than to give concrete expression to this identification process in a National Museum of Qatar that will relate the physical, human and economic geography of the country, together with its history?
One place was symbolically destined to fulfil this role: the historic home of the Al Thani family in Doha; a modest, noble, simple palace from where this twentieth-century adventure began. It stands at the city’s southern entrance, the busiest urban gateway as it also welcomes visitors arriving from the airport.
The architectural study which initially was coupled with the programmatic study, brought to light the underlying paradox of this project: to show what is hidden, to reveal a fading image, to anchor the ephemeral, to put the unspoken into words, to reveal a history which has not had the time to leave a mental imprint; a history that is a present in flight, an energy in action. The National Museum of Qatar is proof patent of how intense this energy is. Of course it will be home to the traditional geological and archaeological artefacts; of course tents, saddles and the dishes will bear witness to nomadic life; of course there will be fishermen’s utensils, boats and nets. Most importantly, though, it will spark an awareness that could only otherwise be encountered, experienced, after months spent in the desert, in pursuit of the particularities that elude our grasp except when the whims of time and nature allow. Everything in this museum works to make the visitor feel the desert and the sea. The museum’s architecture and structure symbolise the mysteries of the desert’s concretions and crystallisations, suggesting the interlocking pattern of the bladelike petals of the desert rose.
A nomadic people builds its capital city and talks about it through this emblematic monument built with the most contemporary construction tools (steel, glass and fibre concrete), and will communicate through high-definition cinema, incorporating visitors’ movements into its museography: this museum is a modern-day caravanserai. From there you leave for the desert and you return from it bringing back treasured images that remain forever engraved on your memory. This is more than just a metaphor. The National Museum of Qatar will become Qatar’s voice of culture, delivering a message about the metamorphosis of modernity and the beauty that happens when the desert meets the sea.
Jean Nouvel

jean_nouvel_national_museum_of_qatar_01National Museum of Qatar, North View
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Qatar Museums Authority about Jean Nouvel’s design and the multifaceted exhibition program:

Marking the next stage of its program to develop Qatar into a hub of culture and communications for the Gulf region and the world, the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) (…)revealed its plans for the new National Museum of Qatar, as expressed in a striking and evocative design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel.
Embodying the pride and traditions of Qatar’s people while offering international visitors a dialogue about rapid change and modernization, the National Museum of Qatar will be the setting for a program in which entire walls become cinematic displays, sonorous cocoons shelter oral-history presentations and hand-held mobile devices guide visitors through thematic displays of the collection’s treasures. Though built around an historic structure, the Fariq Al Salatah Palace, which had served as a museum of heritage since 1975, the National Museum of Qatar is conceived and designed as a thoroughly new institution, in keeping with the high aspirations that animate QMA.

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National Museum of Qatar, 3-D Model
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel’s design manifests both the active, dynamic aspect of the Museum’s program and its crystallization of the Qatari identity, in a building that, like a desert rose, appears to grow out of the ground and be one with it. Prominently located on a 1.5 million-square-foot site at the south end of Doha’s Corniche, where it will be the first monument seen by travellers arriving from the airport, the building takes the form of a ring of low-lying, interlocking pavilions, which encircle a large courtyard area and encompass 430,000 square feet of indoor space. In its organization, the building suggests the image of a caravanserai the traditional enclosed resting place that supported the flow of commerce, information and people across desert trade routes and so gives concrete expression to the identity of a nation in movement. The tilting, interpenetrating disks that define the pavilions’ floors, walls and roofs, clad on the exterior in sand-colored concrete, suggest the bladelike petals of the desert rose, a mineral formation of crystallized sand found in the briny layer just beneath the desert’s surface.

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National Museum of Qatar, Concept Drawing
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

The National Museum of Qatar is the next world-class institution that QMA is creating for our people and for our international community, stated Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson, Qatar Museums Authority. Following the very successful opening in 2008 of the Museum of Islamic Art, which showcases an artistic tradition that spans half the globe, we now look to Qatar’s immediate culture and environment physical and immaterial, historic and contemporary. With this newest project, announced in the year when Doha is the Capital of Arab Culture, we move closer to realizing QMA’s vision of building a forward-looking, sustainable Qatar.

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National Museum of Qatar, View of Caravanserai Courtyard
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Abdulla Al Najjar, Chief Executive Officer of QMA, stated, Taking as its seed the historic palace that was Qatar’s oldest museum, this dramatic project creates an unprecedented 21st century experience celebrating the culture, heritage and future of Qatar and its people. It is characteristic of the spirit of QMA that we have faithfully preserved and incorporated the original palace, respecting this icon of our past, while realizing the astonishing new vision that Jean Nouvel has so brilliantly captured.
According to Peggy Loar, Director of the National Museum of Qatar, at this unparalleled new institution, Qataris will be able to discover more about their immediate ancestors and their roots in the region, learn about the formation of Qatar’s early cities and above all be exposed to the historical, material culture and intangible heritage represented in the collections. International visitors will come away with a better understanding of the life of the Gulf region, of the specific history of the Qatari people and of the initiatives underway today to advance education, develop every aspect of culture and pursue a program of sustainability. We are extremely fortunate that in realizing this program we have the vision of Jean Nouvel, whose design is at once a masterwork of contemporary architecture and an evocation of the timeless desert.

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National Museum of Qatar, West View from Doha Bay
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Commenting on his design, Jean Nouvel stated, this museum is a modern-day caravanserai. From here you leave the desert behind, returning with treasured images that remain engraved on your memory. The National Museum of Qatar will become the voice of a culture, delivering a message of modernity, metamorphosis and the beauty that happens when the desert meets the sea.

Details of the Building

The National Museum of Qatar building will provide 86,000 square feet of permanent gallery space, 21,500 square feet of temporary gallery space, a 220-seat auditorium, a 70-seat food forum / TV studio, two cafés, a restaurant and a museum shop. Separate facilities are provided for school groups and special guests. Staff facilities include a heritage research center, restoration laboratories, staff offices and collection processing and storage areas. The Museum will be surrounded by a 1.2 million-square-foot landscaped park that interprets a Qatari desert landscape.

jean_nouvel_national_museum_of_qatar_05National Museum of Qatar, View of Historic Palace
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Inspired by the desert rose, the interlocking disks that compose the building some of them standing more or less upright and acting as support elements, others lying more or less horizontal are of varying curvature and diameter. The disks are made of steel truss structures assembled in a hub-and-spoke arrangement and are clad in glass fibre reinforced concrete panels. Columns concealed within the vertical disks carry the loads of the horizontal disks to the ground.
Glazed facades fill the voids between disks. Perimeter mullions are recessed into the ceiling, floor and walls, giving the glazing a frameless appearance when viewed from the outside. Deep disk-shaped sun-breaker elements filter incoming sunlight.
Like the exterior, the interior is a landscape of interlocking disks. Floors are sand-colored polished concrete, while the vertical disk walls are clad in stuc-pierre, a traditional gypsum- and lime-blended plaster formulated to imitate stone.
Thermal buffer zones within the disk cavities will reduce cooling loads, while the deep overhangs of the disks will create cool, shady areas for outdoor promenades and protect the interior from light and heat. Steel and concrete, the main materials of the building will be locally sourced and/or fabricated. The landscaping will feature sparse native vegetation with low water consumption. Through these and other sustainability measures, the Museum is working to achieve a USGBC LEED Silver rating.
The Museum’s gardens are specifically designed for the intense climate of Qatar. Plantings will include native grasses and indigenous plants, such as pomegranate trees, date palms, herbs and the Sidra tree, the national tree of Qatar. Landscaping will feature sand dunes and stepped garden architecture to create sitting areas and spaces for the Museum’s programs of tours and garden lectures.

jean_nouvel_national_museum_of_qatar_08National Museum of Qatar, North View
Image by Artefactory, © Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Exhibitions and Collections

A tour of the Museum will take visitors through a loop of galleries that address three major, interrelated themes. These are the natural history of the Qatar peninsula, with its flora and fauna that have adapted to this intense environment of sand and sea; the social and cultural history of Qatar, with its traditions, values and stories that spring from the close, age-old interaction between the people and the natural world; and the history of Qatar as a nation, from the 18th century to the dynamic present.
The displays and installations that explore these themes will integrate exciting and involving audiovisual displays, some of them realized on an architectural scale, with carefully selected treasures from the Museum’s collections. These collections currently consist of approximately 8,000 objects and include archaeological artefacts, architectural elements, heritage household and travelling objects, textiles and costumes, jewellery, decorative arts, books and historical documents. The earliest items date from the end of the last Ice Age (about 8000 BC). The Bronze Age (about 2000 – 1200 BC) is represented, as are the Hellenistic and early Islamic periods. The Museum also has examples of weapons and other objects from the period of the tribal wars and more contemporary decorative objects used for everyday living.

Architectural Fact Sheet

Project
National Museum of Qatar
Doha, Qatar
Architect
Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris
Timeline
Groundbreaking: Spring 2010
Projected Opening: Late 2013
Site Description
The National Museum of Qatar is built around a historic structure, the Fariq Al Salatah Palace, built by the late Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani as his residence and seat of government. The palace was renovated in 1975 as Qatar’s National Museum. The museum is prominently located at the south end of Doha’s Corniche, where it will be the first monument seen by travelers arriving from the airport.
Facilities
The National Museum of Qatar will feature:
12 permanent gallery spaces, including the historic palace that is being restored to its original state
International Gallery for temporary exhibitions
Caravanserai‖ courtyard
Auditorium (220 seats)
Food forum/television studio (70 seats)
Two cafés and a restaurant
Museum shop
Heritage research center
Conservation laboratories, collection processing and storage
Facilities for school groups and special guests
Staff offices
Landscaped park
Museum gardens

Dimensions
New Building: 40,000 sq m (430,000 sq ft)
8,000 sq m (86,000 sq ft) of permanent exhibition galleries
2,000 sq m (21,500 sq ft) of temporary gallery space

Landscaped Park: 11.5 hectares (28 acres)
Site: 135,000 sq m (34 acres)
Design Highlights
The design for the National Museum of Qatar takes the form of a ring of low-lying, interlocking pavilions, which encircle a large courtyard area (the caravanserai) and the historic palace. In its organization, the building suggests the image of a caravanserai the traditional enclosed resting place that supported the flow of commerce, information and people across desert trade routes and so gives concrete expression to the identity of a nation in movement. The building also suggests the image of undulating, wind-swept dunes, rising at their apex to four stories in height.
The pavilions’ floors, exterior walls and roofs are composed of intersecting disks that suggest the bladelike petals of the desert rose, a mineral formation found in the briny layer just beneath the desert’s surface. The disks are clad in sand-colored glass fibre reinforced concrete panels that vary in curvature and diameter. Glazed facades fill the voids between the disks.
The interior is also a landscape of interlocking disks, with sand-colored polished concrete floors and walls clad in stuc-pierre, a traditional blended plaster formulated to imitate stone.
The landscaping in the surrounding park will feature sparse native vegetation inspired by a desert landscape, an aromatic garden with indigenous plants, and an artificial lagoon.

QMA Leadership
H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
Chairperson, Qatar Museums Authority
H.E. Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohammed Al-Thani
Vice Chairperson, Qatar Museums Authority
Abdulla Al Najjar
Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Museums Authority
Roger Mandle
Executive Director, Qatar Museums Authority
Peggy Loar
Director, National Museum of Qatar

Design Partners
Engineering: Arup London
Façade Engineering: BCS/INGPHI
Museography: Studio Adeline Rispal
Interpretive Planning: AP’Culture
BIM Management: Gehry Technology
Quantity Surveying: MDA
Scenography: Ducks sceno
Landscape Design: Michel Desvigne
Landscape Engineering: AECOM
Specifications: Atlas
Signage: Pentagram
Internal Lighting: Scherler
External Lighting: Atelier Yann Kersalé
Museographic Lighting: Licht-Kunst-Licht
Museographic Multimedia: Innovision
Sound Design: Diasonic – Louis Dandrel
Acoustics: AVEL
Architect of Record: QDC

2 comments to The National Museum of Qatar by Ateliers Jean Nouvel

  • Waseem

    UGLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lola

    I do not agree! I think its absolutely GORGEOUS!
    My favorite building ever seen! Brilliant masterpiece!

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