WATCH: Desert rose in concrete: Qatar’s National Museum
Inspired by the well-loved desert rose crystals, and designed by the renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, to call the Qatar National Museum unconventional may be a slight understatement.
The desert rose crystals that it is modelled after are commonly found beneath the sands of the desert in the Gulf, and are seen as iconic to the region.
The museum is situated at the south end of Doha’s corniche on a 1.5 million-square-foot site, and is intended to be the first great monument arriving passengers from the airport set their eyes upon as they make their way into Doha.
This crystal-like structure is currently being constructed around the original Emiri Palace, which was originally built by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani in the early 1900s. The palace served as his family residence and seat of government for around a quarter of a century.
Nouvel’s interlocking disc design creates an almost otherworldly impression, drawing the eye immediately. Steel truss structures assembled in a hub-and-spoke arrangement make up the interlocking discs, which are covered in glass fiber reinforced concrete panels. The effect is eerily industrial with a natural desert twist.
The museum is intended to be a thriving hub for the public, students, and museum professionals. It is set to include 220-seat auditorium, two retail outlets, two restaurants and a café, a dedicated food forum for preserving culinary traditions, a research centre and laboratories.
The museum will also include a collection of gardens designed to suit the intense desert climate of country. Native grasses and plants meant for warmer climes are to be planted, including Qatar’s national tree—the Sidra tree—as well as pomegranate trees, date palms and herbs.
Sand dunes and stepped garden architecture will complete the picture, in addition to sitting areas and spaces for the museum’s garden tours and lectures.
The museum galleries will address three primary themes, which are the natural history of the Qatar peninsula, the social and cultural history of Qatar, and Qatar’s history as a nation, from the 18th century on till the present.
The exhibits dedicated to natural history will explore the land’s flora and fauna, that have formed to suit the harsh climate of sea and sand, while the cultural and social history section will focus on local tales, traditions and values that came as a consequence of the intimate relationship between land and people.
The museum will also concentrate upon preserving the legacy of Qatar’s maritime culture, that was so closely centered around dhows, pearl-diving and fishing. 3D digital models of the boats will be available for viewing, as well as an exhibit of the original building methods of these vessels through laser scanning and digital photography.
It is to Nouvel’s credit that the museum, for all its new-age vibe, is actually an intimate reflection of the country and the region. He literally aimed for a ‘salt of the earth’ design in the conception of the structure and all the richness it is to contain. The Qatar National Museum is meant to connect past with present, and we’ll see the full extent of this connection when it opens its doors at last.