21 December 2008

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Back in Doha for work and went to see the recently opened Museum of Islamic Art designed by I M Pei.

This has to be the most significant museum building to be recently built anywhere in the Middle East.

For designing this building Pei did some extensive travelling in this part of the world and makes lot of references to significant buildings of what can broadly be categorized as buildings making up an 'Islamic tradition in Architecture' and arrives to this stunning building that exceeds in quality both spatially and visually anything to be built here in the recent mad building rush that has taken over the Middle East.
This new museum sits on its own island in Doha bay creating a focal point for the corniche area of the city. Coincidentally the only other impressive building of the city - i.e. the Sheraton hotel also sits along the same stretch of the city and also has a pyramidal form. The following sequence of photos show building from various angles as you enter the museum from the main road along the corniche :
The above photo shows the museum rising on its own island as the city rapidly grows in the background in an area called West Bay.

And once you enter the building you find yourself in a large atrium space below the main pyramidal volume that culminates in a stainless steel dome with an oculus lighting up this huge space. All the main galleries of the museum can be accessed from this space.

Towards the North of this main space you can see the tall towers of West Bay.

The museum is made up of two main volumes - the pyramid and a smaller educational block to its east separated by an open air courtyard from where you can get great views of the city around.

And as night falls the building glows like a gem in the sea.
This building truly has undoubtedly achieved what it set out to do - to but Doha on the cultural map with a Bang!!
Check the museum's website to get a rough idea of their amazing collection of Islamic Art here -http://www.mia.org.qa/english/index.html

18 December 2008

Random photos from Doha

Here's a bunch of random photos from Doha - the capital of Qatar.
Above - Dhow boats near the corniche. These boats were traditional used for trade between the various small arab port cities and larger cities in Iran Pakistan and India.
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In 2006 Doha hosted the Asian games. This event catapulted this oil rich yet almost idyllic Middle Eastern port city into a major global city. Above is a photo of the Khalifa Stadium and the Aspire tower both built as part of the Asian games.
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The next few snaps are of the Sheraton Hotel - one of the most significant buildings in a city that seems to be emerging in a style that can be categorized as 'generic contemporariness'.

This building is well-known throughout the Middle East as "Pyramid of the Gulf" and opened in 1982. And for some two decades it stood almost alone in West Bay - one of the most densely developed part of Doha.

The building has a great central atrium that is made by internally offsetting each of its repetitive floors as it gains height giving its pyramidal external form. This amazing yet strange space makes you feel as if you are actually in a set of Kubrick’s ‘Space Odyssey’.

Below is a view of the fast developing West Bay from the restaurant at the top of the Sheraton.

And here's a set of West Bay images -

A night and day image.
Walking along the corniche.




And here's a large panorama of this area (Click on the image to see an enlarged version)

More random photos -

In the yard of the Abu Bakr Mosque (one of the important mosques of the city)

The next two snaps are taken inside an old building that is undergoing renovation near the Doha city Museum.


The next two snaps are of a new office building (yet to be opened) I understand that this is designed by French star-architect Jean Nouvel. (Though I'm not 100% sure of this - his website has no mention about this project)


The next few snaps are of one of the most iconic buildings in the old part of the city, known as FANAR it is the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre. The building has a mosque an exhibition space on the ground floor that explains Islam and on the second floor there is a public mosque.



But sadly the spire section of the building is just a typical office tower on the inside and has no interesting spaces inside it.

The only interesting thing inside this building is a charity box (pictured below) that’s badly modelled on the building itself.


Here's a few snaps from the 'old town' ironically large portions of old Doha are actually brand new only made to look old, traditional and middle eastern souk like.

The next few snaps are of/from the Pearl Island. Doha's answer to Dubai's Palm Island.


The two zig-zag buildings above form a notional gateway into this development built on the sea.
Unlike the Palm in Dubai here the waterways are quiet wide and therefore this development is unlikely to suffer from the erosion and stagnant water problems currently being faced by Palm Jumeirah.

However, the form of the Pearl Island is not clear enough, in aerial view it is almost like a suburban city layout and thus not easily legible from Google Earth. You could thus argue that it is not as potent an image as the Palm islands off Dubai.
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The rest of the photos in this post were taken during today's Qatar National Day celebrations.

The whole city was covered in the Qatari flag and there was a huge fireworks display at the end of the day at the Corniche (pictured below from Souk Waqif).

And the last photo (above) is of West Bay lit up for the National Day!

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