Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar Museums opened the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) to the public on 28 March 2019, welcoming the world to an unparalleled immersive experience housed in a new architectural masterpiece by Jean Nouvel.
The Museum’s winding, 1.5-kilometer gallery path is a journey through a series of unique, encompassing environments, each of which tells its part of the story of Qatar through a special combination of architectural space, music, poetry, oral histories, evocative aromas, archaeological and heritage objects, commissioned artworks, monumentally-scaled art films, and more.
Together, the eleven permanent galleries takes visitors from the formation of the Qatar peninsula millions of years ago to the nation’s exciting and diverse present. Giving voice to the nation’s rich heritage and culture and expressing the aspirations of its people, NMoQ will serve as a hub for discovery, creativity, and community engagement, providing diverse educational opportunities for Qatar and advancing the nation’s cultural vision on the global stage.
The spectacular 52,000-square-meter (560,000-square-foot) NMoQ embraces as its centerpiece the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani (1880-1957), son of the founder of modern Qatar. The permanent gallery route culminates in the very heart of Qatari national identity, the restored Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. Built in 1906, this palace is significant as a national symbol and is one of the best-loved Qatar landmarks. Following a painstaking restoration project over a period of more than three years, it now forms the final highlight of a visit to the National Museum of Qatar.
In designing the building that makes these experiences possible, Jean Nouvel drew inspiration from the desert rose, a flower-like formation that occurs naturally in the Gulf region when minerals crystallize in the crumbly soil just below the surface of a shallow salt basin. The cantilevered disks, which provide natural shade, are among the elements of the design that have enabled NMoQ to become the first museum to receive both LEED Gold certification and a four-star sustainability rating from the Global Sustainability Assessment System.
Telling the Story of Qatar Through Encompassing Experiences
NMoQ is organized in three chapters—“Beginnings,” “Life in Qatar,” and “The Modern History of Qatar”— presented in eleven galleries, which take visitors from the geological period long before the peninsula was inhabited through to the present day.
Oral history films, archival photographs, maps, texts, models, and digital learning stations establish the narrative, along with some of the most dazzling treasures of Qatar’s history and heritage. All films were produced by the Doha Film Institute using cutting-edge technologies and were shot within the borders of Qatar.
The creation of these experiences began more than a decade ago and involved convening a series of more than a dozen meetings with members of the public, at which NMoQ invited hundreds of Qataris to share whatever stories and materials they might care to offer and asked what they most wanted to see and hear in their national museum. In a separate but related initiative, the NMoQ team also conducted more than 500 on-camera oral history interviews. Out of these interactions came a richness of information that became the essence of the new institution.
Making Doha: 1950-2030
To inaugurate its temporary exhibition gallery, the new National Museum of Qatar will present an exploration of the ongoing urban and architectural development of the capital city, Making Doha 1950-2030, on view from 28 March through 30 August 2019.
Curated by Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal of OMA/AMO and Fatma Al Sehlawi and the Qatar based research team from Atlas Bookstore, and designed by a team from OMA/AMO, 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.
Site-Specific Commissioned Artworks
Adding another layer of emotion and imagination to the experience, NMoQ has also commissioned local, regional, and international artists to create new works, installed both inside the building and outside on the expansive grounds. HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, guided the selection of the commissions.
Finally, on the 900-meter-long lagoon that is a key feature of the landscaped park surrounding the Museum, visitors will find the largest installation ever conceived by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Titled ALFA, it comprises 114 individual black fountains, shaped to resemble Arabic calligraphy or the tall reeds that calligraphers use to make their pens. The fountains are activated once an hour.
Education and Community Engagement
The 112,000-square-meter (28-acre) public park designed by landscape architect Michel Desvignes that surrounds the Museum features family-friendly interactive learning environments, walkways, and a lagoon and is landscaped exclusively with drought-resistant native vegetation. In the outdoor areas, children can learn through play and exploration, discovering crucial aspects of life in Qatar in an echo of what they learn in the Museum itself.
The main galleries incorporate six learning spaces featuring a range of interactive exhibits designed to appeal to people of different ages. The Museum will also offer a wide range of activities for the entire community. These include spaces that host educational and cultural activities such as workshops, competitions, and lessons on arts education, and other activities for all ages, but especially school students. Educating the public about topics related to culture and history that complement the national curriculum is a major focus for the National Museum of Qatar.
Restaurants and Hospitality
The National Museum’s Café 875 overlooks the main lobby and serves contemporary Qatari cuisine. The Desert Rose café is located midway through the permanent galleries route, and the Jiwan Restaurant is located on the upper level, offering panoramic views of the sea. A 213-seat auditorium is located next to the main public lobby. Gift shops include resources for parents, teachers, and visitors, among them activity books, souvenirs, games, and books, as well as exquisite merchandise by Qatar’s finest designers.
Visitor Information: https://www.qm.org.qa/en/ticketing-terms-conditions.
Source: Press release
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