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Australian architect designs interiors in Jean Nouvel’s National Museum of Qatar

The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel, has opened to the public.

Australian practice Koichi Takada Architects has designed a series of interior spaces for the building, including retail spaces and a number of hospitality venues.

Nouvel’s design for the building is inspired by the desert rose, a geological phenomenon that forms clusters of gypsum crystals resembling rose petals. The building’s form is hence made up of a series of dramatic interlocking discs, which form complex geometries.

In turn, Koichi Takada Architects’ design for the interiors takes inspiration from Nouvel’s architecture. The Desert Rose restaurant on the ground floor directly references the form of the building through a series of interlocking discs that form the banquette seating. The space is hidden under a large disc with a low ceiling, which creates the sensation of being inside a cave.

National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel with interiors by Koichi Takada Architects.

National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel with interiors by Koichi Takada Architects.

Image: Oscar Rialubin

Overall, the design of the interior spaces draws on the desert landscapes, history and culture of Qatar.

“The architecture is a representation of the desert rose mineral formation; a connection to nature,” Koichi Takada said.

“Each interior space offers a fragment of the Qatari history [and] aims to enhance and fulfil both a cultural and memorable experience for museum visitors.

“Talking to her excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa and to the Qatar Museums Authority 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 majlis 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.”

The museum’s retail spaces are inspired by the “Cave of Light” – a 40-metre-deep cave in the centre of Qatar. They feature 40,000 unique timber pieces that were CNC-cut in Italy and assembled by hand in Doha.

Cafe 875, on the mezzanine floor, was inspired by traditional Qatari jewelry and named after a very fine grade of gold only found in the Arab world. The cafe features four circular seating formations that reference a typical piece of Qatari jewelry, the “medallion ring.” The space recreates the experience of a traditional Majlis, a meeting place, while also offering contemporary cafe seating. Lighting around the circular banquettes casts a ring of light onto the ceiling. The space is also designed to recede from the sight line so as not to compete with the arrival spaces designed by Jean Nouvel on the ground floor.

National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel with interiors by Koichi Takada Architects.

National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel with interiors by Koichi Takada Architects.

Image: Oscar Rialubin

On the top floor of the museum, the Jiwan restaurant references the landscape of the inland sea, Khor Al Adaid. The colours and textures of the carpet represent the desert and water, while the ceiling feature is inspired by fishing nets and includes more than four million pearl-like crystal beads. The restaurant overlooks Doha Bay and the newly restored historic palace.

“The National Museum of Qatar will be the next ‘Bilbao Effect’ and Jean Nouvel’s masterful design is a seeker of architectural magic,” said Takada. “The museum’s desert rose 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.”

Koichi Takada Architects won an invited competition to design the interiors of the National Museum of Qatar in 2012. The practice had previously worked on the interiors of One Central Park, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects.

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