1. Acclaimed French architect Jean Nouvel found inspiration for the new Museum of Qatar in the desert rose form.

A futuristic new museum for Qatar

Housed in a spectacular new building designed by award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, the new National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), will open to the public on 28 March 2019, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

The immersive, experiential NMoQ tells the story of Qatar and its people over 700 million years until today, giving voice to the country's rich heritage and culture and also its hopes for the future.

At its centre stands the restored historic palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani (1880–1957), son of the founder of modern Qatar. This building was once both the home of Qatar's royal family and the seat of government – before it housed the original National Museum.

The new 40,000-sqm museum by Jean Nouvel, who designed the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, incorporates the old palace, as well as providing a modern home for a collection of innovative art, commissioned from Qatari and international artists, rare and precious objects, documentary materials, and interactive learning facilities.

His dynamic design echoes the geography of Qatar while also evoking its history and culture. 'Qatar has a deep rapport with the desert, with its flora and fauna, its nomadic people, its long traditions,' he explains.

'To fuse these contrasting elements I needed something symbolic. Then, I remembered the phenomenon of the desert rose: crystalline forms, like miniature architectural events, that emerge from the ground through the work of wind, salt water and sand. The museum that developed from this idea, with its great curved discs, intersections, and cantilevered angles, is a totality, at once architectural, spatial and sensory.'

The museum is organised into three 'chapters': Beginnings, Life in Qatar and Building the Nation, in 11 galleries. The visitor's chronological journey, which extends for more than 2.7km (1.7 miles), starts in the geological period long before the peninsula was inhabited by humans, and continues to the present day. The visitor route passes through a succession of impressive, remarkably shaped spaces until it reaches that symbol of Qatari national identity, the thoroughly restored palace of Sheikh Abdullah.

2. The curved discs and angles of the museum contrast with the traditional lines of the 19th-century palace.

Oral histories, archival images, artworks, music, storytelling and evocative aromas create an immersive sensory experience that contextualises the impressive array of archaeological and heritage objects, as well as manuscripts, documents, photographs, jewellery and historic costumes. One of the greatest treasures on show is the renowned Pearl Carpet of Baroda, commissioned in 1865, embroidered with more than 1.5 million of the highest quality Gulf pearls and adorned with emeralds, diamonds and sapphires. It was created in India to fullfil a vow to cover the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad in the holy city of Medina, which is in Saudi Arabia.

Artworks commissioned for NMoQ include a piece by Qatari artist Ali Hassan in the ground-floor public entrance,
a work by Qatari artist and arts patron Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani at the entrance to the galleries, and a sculpture by Iraqi artist Ahmed Al Bahrani in the outdoor space known as the Howsh, or caravanserai.

Commissioned artworks in the NMoQ park include a monumental installation by the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, comprising 114 individual fountains set within the lagoon, with their streams designed to evoke the fluid forms of Arabic calligraphy; and Gates of the Sea, a sculpture by the Syrian artist Simone Fattal, inspired by the petroglyphs found in Qatar at Al Jassasiya.

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, commented: 'Qatar is an ancient land, rich in the traditions of the desert and the sea, but also a land that hosted many past civilisations.

While it has modernised its infrastructure, it has still remained true to the core cultural values of our times.
"We look forward to sharing new museum experiences with our proud and diverse communities, as well as welcoming international guests.'

Lindsay Fulcher