Heritage meets innovation at the National Museum of Qatar in Doha
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Heritage meets innovation at the National Museum of Qatar in Doha

Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects designs the interiors of the National Musuem of Qatar, the architecture of which has been unveiled by French firm Ateliers Jean Nouvel.

by Meghna Mehta Sep 07, 2019

The National Museum of Qatar , designed by French architect and Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel-led Ateliers Jean Nouvel, was opened to the public earlier this year. It revealed the designs of the part of the interiors that were assigned to Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects, after winning an international competition in 2012. It has been eight years in the making since then.

The client’s brief specified that the museum’s gift shops must express an innovative, emotional and culturally rich response to the National Museum of Qatar’s curatorial mission - ’Heritage meets Innovation’.

Located on a 1.5 million-square-foot site at the south end of Doha’s Corniche, the National Museum of Qatar will be the first monument visible to travellers arriving from the airport. The forms and materials used by Koichi Takada Architects aim to respect and complement Jean Nouvel’s architecture.

The designs by Koichi Takada Architects were revealed during the grand opening on March 28, 2019, which included its Museum shops and Desert Rose Café, with the anticipated opening of Café 875 and Jiwan restaurant later this year.

“The National Museum of Qatar will be the next ‘Bilbao Effect’ and Jean Nouvel’s masterful design is a seeker of architectural magic. The museum’s locally inspired space is a mirage within which visitors will lose a sense of time wandering between the past and future. The National Museum of Qatar will give a voice to Qatar’s cultural heritage whilst celebrating its future identity,” quoted Koichi Takada.

  • Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light) | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light) Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Interiors of the gift shop inspired from the caves | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada architects| STIR
    Interiors of the gift shop inspired from the caves Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Interiors of the gift shop inspired from the structure of the caves | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Interiors of the gift shop inspired from the structure of the caves Image Credit: Tom Ferguson

Principal architect, Koichi Takada, explained, “Talking to H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa and to the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) has opened my eyes to a culturally rich way of life, which has inspired me. They passionately talked about the iconic nature of Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), located in the heart of Qatar, and introduced me to the ritual of majilis floor dining, a bit like my favourite childhood memory of Japanese tatami floor dining. Designing the interiors of the National Museum of Qatar was an opportunity to create a unique experience for visitors to immerse in Qatar’s cultural heritage; the traditional and historical past, and its development into a modern state as the cultural hub of the Middle East.”

  • Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Shape and form of interiors inspired from traditional and historic past Image Credit: Tom Ferguson

The interior design concept ‘desert-scapes‘ has been carefully curated to create a local cultural experience for visitors, while bowing to Jean Nouvel’s architectural masterpiece.

Takada further explained, “The architecture is a representation of the desert rose mineral formation; a connection to nature. Each interior space offers a fragment of the Qatari history that aims to enhance and fulfil both, a cultural and memorable experience for museum visitors.”

Koichi Takada Architects’ interior design in the National Museum is a narrative of the Qatari history. Through the conversations with the local Qatari people, the designs evolved to translate a story into a visual design and a memorable experience.

  • Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Relevance to local culture given in the narrative of the gift shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson

The timber walls of the museum shops draw inspiration from Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), an underground sanctuary formed largely from fibrous gypsum crystals that give off a faint, moon-like, phosphorescent glow. Its organic architecture echoes Takada’s vision of bringing nature back into architecture, establishing relationships that connect people and nature through design. Using a cutting-edge 3D modelling software, a design of curves and surfaces was also achieved.

  • A sketch by Koichi Takada Architects of the design of gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    A sketch by Koichi Takada Architects of the design of gift shop Image Credit: Koichi Takada architects
  • Combined plan of Gift Shop and Children Gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Combined plan of Gift Shop and Children Gift shop Image Credit: Koichi Takada Architects
  • Section of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Section of the gift shop Image Credit: Koichi Takada Architects

The 40,000 wooden pieces that were put together for the timber walls were individually encoded with a visual number and guideline, assembled by hand, piece by piece without visual fixings. Each piece was glued and fixed by small cleverly conceived brackets to a steel rib-like structure behind the cladding. These pieces were assembled by hand in Doha, by Italian master carpenter Claudio Devoto and his team of artisans. Each wooden piece, CNC-cut in Italy, is entirely unique so that it could fit with its exact complementary piece.

  • abrication process using 3D modelling | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Fabrication process using 3D modelling Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Fabrication process using 3D modelling| Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Fabrication process using 3D modelling Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Interiors of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Interiors of the gift shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Interiors of the gift shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Interiors of the gift shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Gift shop as seen from the lobby | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Gift shop as seen from the lobby Image Credit: Tom Ferguson

“No one piece of timber could be installed in the incorrect position in this giant jigsaw puzzle. The hand-crafted methodology of assembly playing a key role in the success of the spaces,” added the team.

For the shop’s interiors, European Oak was chosen, primarily because of its light colour, relatively straight uncomplicated grain and renewable green credentials. The intensity of the design and craftsmanship pays homage to Jean Nouvel's desert rose inspired architecture and celebrates the natural Qatari heritage of the desert-scape.

The Desert Rose Café, now open to the public, is located on the ground floor under the large structure and opens to both the lagoon (at the Corniche side) and to the Caravanserai courtyard. The café is an oasis of the flower's formations, offering a perfect mid-way resting spot for visitors to break the journey through the galleries. The design of Café is a direct reference to the impressive urban scale of Jean Nouvel’s architecture.

Meanwhile, Café 875 takes inspiration from traditional Qatari gold jewellery, particularly the medallion rings. ‘875’ is a rare grade of gold available in the Arab world. The interior of the café offers visitors an experience of the unique majilis, a traditional setting from the Qatari Bedouin nomadic lifestyle and enduring hospitality. Café 875 is located on the mezzanine floor over the main lobby.

  • Children's Gift Shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Children's Gift Shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • Children's Gift Shop | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    Children's Gift Shop Image Credit: Tom Ferguson
  • CaravanSerai courtyard | Qatar Museum Interiors | Koichi Takada Architects| STIR
    CaravanSerai courtyard Image Credit: Tom Ferguson

The design of the Jiwan restaurant, located on the fourth floor at the top of the museum, provides stunning panoramic views over the aquamarine water of Doha Bay. The restaurant’s design embodies Qatar’s unique landscape of the ‘inland sea’ or Khor Al Adaid – desert meets sea, and is inspired from the unique Qatari nature and geography where the sea comes deep into the heart of the desert.

Project Details

Name of the project: Interiors for the National Museum of Qatar
Interior design: Koichi Takada Architects
Architect: Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Clients: Qatar Museums Authority
Location: Doha, Qatar
Site area: 40,000 sqm
Status: Completed in March 2019
Project Management: ASTAD Project Management
Main Contractor: IMAR Trading & Contracting

Giftshop and Children’s Giftshop

Status: Completed March 2019
Interior design: Koichi Takada Architects
Clients: Qatar Museum Authority
Area: Museum Gift Shop 174 sqm, Children’s Gift Shop 97 sqm
Operator/End-User: IN-Q Enterprises WLL (subsidiary of Qatar Museums)
Main Contractor: IMAR Trading & Contracting
Sub-Contractor (Joinery): Devoto Design
Sub-Contractor (MEP): Sogelec
Lighting Fixtures: ERCO and IBL Lighting
Photography: Tom Ferguson Photography, Oscar Rialubin
Video: Tom Roberts Videography

Desert Rose Café

Status: Completed March 2019
Interior design: Koichi Takada Architects
Clients: Qatar Museum Authority
Operator/End-User: Chef Noof Al-Marri
Main Contractor: IMAR Trading & Contracting
Sub-Contractor (Joinery): Sindar

Sub-Contractor (MEP): Sogelec
Lighting fixtures: IBL Lighting

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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