National Museum of Qatar Opens

John Hill
27. March 2019
Photo: Iwan Baan

The National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, officially opens to the public on March 28 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Opening day comes eleven months after NMoQ released some photos by Iwan Baan revealing the building's exterior, a composition of large interlocking disks inspired by the desert rose. Nouvel has actually described the design as "the first architectural structure that nature itself creates." More photos by Iwan Baan coincide with opening day, though unfortunately they do not give us a peek inside the 52,000-sm (560,000-sf) building, though a press announcement hints at the quality of spaces on the interior: "Inside, the structure of interlocking disks continues, creating an extraordinary variety of irregularly shaped volumes."

The new National Museum of Qatar designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (Photo: Iwan Baan)

The museum embraces the historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani (1880-1957, the son of the founder of modern Qatar), which has been restored and is considered "the culminating exhibit in the sweeping succession of gallery experiences." With a 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) winding path through the museum's eleven permanent galleries, NMoQ aims to "take visitors from the formation of the Qatar peninsula millions of years ago to the nation’s exciting and diverse present."

View of the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani together with close-up view of the new National Museum of Qatar (Photo: Iwan Baan)

NMoQ also has a temporary gallery, and its inaugural exhibition will be Making Doha: 1950-2030 (March 28-August 30, 2019), "an exploration of the ongoing urban and architectural development of the capital city." Curated by Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal of OMA/AMO and Fatma Al Sehlawi and the research team from Qatar's Atlas Bookstore, Making Doha 1950-2030 "brings together seventy years of photographs, models, plans, texts, films, oral histories, and archival materials to chart Doha’s transition from organic growth to more modern and deliberate planning practices."

The new National Museum of Qatar designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Visible in the aerial at top and the photo above is the central court – the Baraha – that sits within the ring of galleries but also serves as a gathering space for outdoor cultural events. The cantilevered disks provide shade in this outdoor environment, an important consideration given Doha's climate.

Close-up view of the interlocking disks of the new National Museum of Qatar
designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (Photo: Iwan Baan)
Jean Nouvel said in the press announcement:

"To imagine a desert rose as a basis for design was a very advanced idea, even a utopian one. 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. 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, with spaces inside that exist nowhere else."

The new National Museum of Qatar designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Live stream of the VIP opening on March 27, 2019:

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