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Jean Nouvel

Architect - Project National Museum of Qatar


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Jean Nouvel’s long awaited US$434m (€383m, £328.7m) museum opened in Doha, Qatar, at the end of March.

Inspired by the local desert rose, the museum features permanent and temporary galleries, a 220-seat auditorium, a 70 seat forum, heritage and conservation facilities, two cafes, a restaurant and a boutique.

“To imagine a desert rose as a basis for a design was a very advanced idea,” said Nouvel. “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 52,000 sq m (569,000 sq ft) structure is located on Doha’s waterfront and its entrance sits behind 114 fountain sculptures in a 900-metre-long lagoon. The roof is made up of 76,000 panels and resembles a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The interior offers 1,500m of gallery space and features a 19th-century carpet, which is embroidered with 1.5 million Gulf pearls, and the oldest Koran yet discovered in Qatar.

Originally scheduled to open in 2016, the museum has been a decade-long project from concept to conclusion. “On a basic level, the museum represents Qatari identity, which has really accelerated in the post-blockade environment,” said Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst based in Washington DC.

Sheikha Amna bint Abdulaziz bin Jassim al-Thani, the museum’s director, added: “This is a museum that narrates the story of the people of Qatar.”

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CLAD people: Jean Nouvel
'It has spaces inside that exist nowhere else' Jean Nouvel on his long-awaited National Museum of Qatar @ateliersjnouvel