Travel

All eyes on the new National Museum of Qatar

With its out-there architecture, the arrival of Doha’s latest attraction has turned heads in the art worldFriday, 10 May 2019

By Connor McGovern
National Museum of Qatar

A UFO party in the desert? A heap of oversized crockery? Not quite. According to architect Jean Nouvel, the inspiration behind the new National Museum of Qatar is actually the desert rose, a intricate type of gypsum crystal formed in arid climes. Whatever impressions Doha’s all-star attraction gives off, it can easily rival the other recent, extravagant openings in the Middle East in terms of its scale and ambition.

Enveloping a 20th-century palace at its heart, the complex sprawls across 430,000sq ft at the end of the Corniche, and took nearly two decades to conceive and complete.

But architecture aside, it’s a bold addition to Qatar’s cultural arsenal; an attempt to define the country’s identity and celebrate its heritage and future. Inside the cluster of interlocking discs (which cleverly provide pockets of shade), there’s a mile’s worth of exhibitions that trace the country’s past, from desert fossils right up to the exploration of natural gas. Immersive films, animations and galleries are also installed to help bring artefacts and exhibits to life, touching on human topics such as life in the harsh, hostile desert and the waning tradition of pearl fishing.

430,000
sq ft of space makes up the new museum in Doha

76,000
panels form the huge angular roof 

$434m
(£331m) was the estimated cost of the museum’s construction 

Three more to see... new modish museums

WEIMAR
Having shaped much of 20th century design, this year Bauhaus turns 100. To celebrate, the newly opened Bauhaus-Museum Weimar is championing all its ground-breaking modernism.

VENICE
Giudecca will become the Italian city’s permanent art district, thanks to its starring role in this year’s Biennale (11 May-24 November), when 11 galleries will colour the isle with art.  

WINDERMERE
The Windermere Jetty Museum’s collection of vessels celebrates the heritage of the region. Most striking, perhaps, is the museum’s copper cladding, whose sheen will change with the Cumbrian weather.

Published in the June 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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