One of the first sights to be encountered by travellers arriving in Doha in the near future will be the new National Museum of Qatar.
Currently being built at the south end of the Corniche, the striking complex of disk-shaped pavilions will celebrate the culture, heritage and future of Qatar and its people.
The innovative design is the work of renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. Hyundai Engineering & Construction of South Korea was awarded the $434 million contract by Qatar Museums Authority last year, and the opening is scheduled for December 2014.
While the look of the new museum is uncompromisingly modern, its scattering of intersecting disk-like components are designed to echo the petals of the desert sand rose. Nouvel, whose declared intention is to reflect the country’s vanishing Bedouin culture, describes it as “a modern-day caravanserai.”
Built from locally sourced concrete and steel, the museum will comprise 430,000 sq ft of indoor space, including 86,000 sq ft of permanent gallery space, 21,500 sq ft of temporary gallery space, a 220-seat auditorium, a 70-seat food forum and TV studio, two cafes, a restaurant, and a museum shop. Surrounding it will be a 1.2 million sq ft landscaped park in the style of a Qatari desert landscape.
The restored Fariq Al Salatah Palace, which has served as Qatar’s national museum since 1975, is integrated into the design. Originally built in the early 20th century by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, and for 25 years the seat of government, the palace is being preserved as the heart of the new museum.
“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,” says Peggy Loar, the National Museum’s director.
However, it is not just Qatari citizens that the new museum is intended to attract.
Qatar, which already boasts a Museum of Islamic Art, an Orientalist Museum, and a Museum of Modern Islamic Art, is targeting 20 per cent growth in tourism over the next five years, and culture will play an important part in pulling in visitors, particularly from other GCC states, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.