The gift shop at the National Museum of Qatar offers a large collection of well-designed, exclusive gifts, many of which draw their inspiration from the history, heritage and culture of Qatar. But more importantly, the structure housing these gift shops is in itself a great gift by the architects/designers to the visitors. Interestingly, both the exterior and interior of this structure are influenced by different factors/things yet they connect to each other very well. Do you know what’s the inspiration of this museum?
The story of Qatar unfolds across 11 striking galleries in the museum, all employing innovative approaches to storytelling. Each gallery provides a unique perspective across time and connects visitors to lives lived between land and sea. All the senses will be triggered through a creative combination of sounds including music and oral histories, visually through film and archival images and even by smell through evocative aromas.
The new museum building, conceived by French architect Jean Nouvel emerges from a desert that has ventured all the way to the sea. The National Museum is dedicated to the history of Qatar. “Symbolically, its architecture evokes the desert, its silent and eternal dimension, but also the spirit of modernity and daring that have come along and shaken up what seemed unshakeable. So, it’s the contradictions in that history that I’ve sought to evoke here,” says Jean Nouvel.
The desert rose, a flower-like aggregate of mineral crystals occurring only in arid coastal regions, is the first architectural structure that nature itself creates, through wind, sea spray and sand acting together over millennia. It’s surprisingly complex and poetic.
Taking the desert rose as a starting point turned out to be a very progressive, not to say utopian, idea, says Nouvel. “I say ‘utopian’ because, to construct a building 350-m long, with its great big inward-curving disks, and its intersections and cantilevered elements – all the things that conjure up a desert rose – we had to meet enormous technical challenges. This building is at the cutting-edge of technology, like Qatar itself.”
As in a lot of other museums, the circuit forms a loop. The complete tour takes about two hours and ends in discovery of the old Royal Palace, which has been restored.
The interior designed by Sydney-based Koichi Takada Architects derives its inspiration from the Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), located in the heart of Qatar, which is a beautiful underground sanctuary formed largely from fibrous gypsum crystals that give off a faint, moon-like, phosphorescent glow. The interior echoes Koichi Takada’s vision of bringing nature back into architecture, establishing relationships that connect people and nature through design.
Using 3D modeling software, the shops are a three-dimensional puzzle, comprising 40,000 individual wooden pieces. Each piece, CNC-cut in Italy is entirely unique, fitting only with its exact complementary piece. The site assembly was an engineering and assembly challenges that was skilfully executed on-site by Italian master carpenter, Claudio Devoto and his team of artisans. The 40,000 pieces were individually en-coded with a visual number and guideline, assembled by hand, piece by piece without visual fixings.
The National Museum of Qatar was also the first national museum in the world to receive both a LEED Gold and a 4-STAR (Global Sustainability Assessment System) sustainability rating. The shop interiors were constructed from European Oak, a conscious decision because of its renewable green credentials that aligned with the sustainable goals of the museum.