The National Museum of Qatar occupies one of the most iconic structures in the Middle East. Its architect, Jean Nouvel, sought to capture the essence of a country immersed in a continual process of modernisation yet still firmly rooted in its venerable traditions. The formation known as “desert rose”, a sedimentary rock that crystallises in interlocking lenticular discs to form a flower-like cluster, gave the French architect the inspiration he sought for a building that would embody this unique balance between the rich heritage of Qatar’s past and its ambitions for the future.
Situated on the waterfront in Doha, the museum was built around the former palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. This edifice, home to the National Museum since 1975, is now the culminating exhibit in the succession of experiences offered by the new building, whose 52,000 sqm surface area includes 8,000 sqm of permanent exhibition halls (twelve in total) and temporary galleries, an auditorium and a conference room, a restaurant, two cafés and a shop, plus storage areas, back office spaces and conservation workshops. The same lenticular discs that define the exterior also infuse the interior spaces with their mineral magic.
Jean Nouvel, famed for his architectural creations as well as his exhibition designs, also teamed up with Renaud Pierard to design the museography, where Qatar’s physical geography (from the peninsula’s geological origins), flora and fauna converge with the country’s history, art, economy and the lifestyles of its people in both the past—nomad culture, life on the coast and the importance of the fishing industry, maritime trade and pearling—and the present.
More than 4,500 exhibits illustrate this vast content, accompanied by large-format audiovisual projections—on 3,225 sqm of projection surfaces—and other digital resources, plus a total of 1,360 reproductions of all types and sizes, from replicas of insects and larger animals to an art installation made of elements from an oil platform and an enormous sycamore wood scale model of the major archaeological site at Al Zubarah. In addition, the new NMoQ features interactive stations known as “family exhibits”, designed specifically with young visitors in mind.