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Desert Rose

Amongst young yet complex government entities undergoing extended transformation in the Persian Gulf, the Emirate of Qatar is perhaps where the cultural model of a universalist key in the perception of art is finding absolute and complete glorification.

The most distinguished international newspapers – from the Guardian to the NewYorkTimes – have pointed out for some time how Doha is, without denial, the capital with the highest concentration of upscale art merchants, while at the same time emphasizing how the country’s museum system has budgets that make their prestigiousWestern counterparts pale in comparison.

One of the main objectives that QMA (Qatar Museums Authority) has had ever since its founding in 2005 is to give the appropriate framework to this immense patrimony, systematically acquired to be placed in an interactive relationship with the most representative collections of Qatar culture.

This includes specimens dating back to the Ice Age, through the Bronze Age, until the dawn of Islam. In this light, this raises Jean Nouvel’s fascinating and evocative project for the National Museum of Qatar upcoming inauguration.

The French architect’s choice was not by chance: his natural inclination for a superb mixture of Western and Eastern cultures had already born fruit in the design of the renowned Institut de Monde Arabe in Paris, then – more recently in Doha – Doha Tower (known as the c.d. cucumber because of its characteristic form), and the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Arab Emirates, an authentic outpost of its French twin. Rising up around the historic Fariq Al Salatah palace, on the Corniche, the museum’s headquarters – a visionary structure – will be among the first images visitors see upon landing in the capital.

According to the designer, the initial idea was developed around an image of the desert rose, a special mineral made of crystal clusters, as well as the concept of caravanserai, a traditional crossroads and type of roadside inn for merchants travelling along trade routes.

There will also be walls that serve as multimedia screens, exhibition galleries, reading places and tout court cultural spaces; for the garden design, close attention was paid to natural surroundings, planting succulents, pomegranates, date palms and naturally, Sidra trees – the symbol of Qatar, present in every dwelling.

Therefore, there is no longer just a museum “container”, by now an outdated form in order to channel an artistic message. Rather, as Nouvel reiterated, it is “expression of a culture, bearing a message of modernity, metamorphosis, and beauty born from the encounter between desert and sea”.

Autore: Jenny Del Chiocca

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