Jean Nouvel’s Plans for the National Museum of Qatar Unveiled
A 1.2-million-square-foot park that interprets the Qatari landscape will surround the structure.
Nicholas Tamarin -- Interior Design, 4/15/2010 12:00:00 AM
Fresh off of the success of his stunning 100 Eleventh Avenue apartment tower in New York, Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel designs for the National Museum of Qatar are being unveiled by the national authority of the Gulf region country.
By all accounts Nouvel’s designs will be just as innovative in the desert as they were in Chelsea. Taking the desert rose, a mineral formation of crystallized sand underneath the desert’s surface, as his muse for the museum’s 1.5-million-square-foot site on the Doha Corniche, a waterfront promenade on the Doha Bay in the country’s capital, Nouvel devised a ring of low-lying, interlocking pavilions that encircle a large courtyard. The structure is built around the historic Fariq Al Salatah Palace, which served as the country’s museum of heritage since 1975, and is organized like a caravanserai, the traditional enclosed resting places along desert trade routes. Its sand-colored concrete exterior will be surrounded by a 1.2-million-square-foot park that interprets the Qatari landscape with native grasses and indigenous plants like pomegranate trees, date palms, and the Sidra tree, Qatar’s national tree.
“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,” says Abdulla Al Jannar, chief executive officer of the Qatar Museum Authority. “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.”
The museum will boast 86,000-square-feet of permanent gallery space, 21,500-square-feet of temporary gallery space, a 220-seat auditorium, a television studio, two cafés, a restaurant, and a museum shop. Staff facilities will include a heritage research center, restoration laboratories, and collection processing and storage areas.
Peggy Loar, director of the National Museum of Qatar states, “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. 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.”
Nouvel’s vision includes glazing the voids between the disk-like pavilions, which are made of steel truss structures assembled in a hub-and-spoke arrangement and clad in glass-fiber-reinforced concrete panels. Floors are likewise sand-colored polished inside while walls are clad in stuc-pierre, a traditional gypsum, and lime-blended plaster that has the appearance of stone.
“This museum is a modern-day caravanserai,” adds Nouvel. “From here you leave the desert behind, returning with treasured images that remain engraved on your memory. The [museum] will become the voice of a culture, delivering a message of modernity, metamorphosis and the beauty that happens when the desert meets the sea.”
Images courtesy Jean Nouvel.