Islamic architecture and art have been instrumental in shaping the identity of Arab societies for centuries, reflecting a unique system of beliefs, attitudes, and values. With the increasing focus on preserving local identity, historical buildings are being converted into museums or constructed in neo-vernacular styles in Arab Gulf countries. One such monument is the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, designed by I.M Pei.
Despite being outside the principles of Islamic design and local Qatari architecture, the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most prominent monuments in the city and an emblematic icon of neo-vernacular Qatari architecture. The museum reflects the vitality, complexity, and diversity of the arts of the Islamic world and showcases masterpieces from three continents spanning from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries. While the museum’s exterior is austere, the interior is adorned with decorative patterns and shapes, including an elaborate metal canopy at the entrance.
Museum of Islamic Art Technical Information
- Architects1-6: Ieoh Ming Pei and Jean-Michel Wilmotte
- Location: Doha, Qatar
- Developer: National Council for Culture, Arts, and Heritage, Qatar Petroleum
- Topics: Museums, Neo-vernacular Qatari Architecture
- Area: 45.000 m2
- Project Year: 2003 – 2008
- Photographs: © Trevor Patt
There are buildings that inspire awe, that project an image of greatness and permanence, and there are buildings that are exceptional for the way they adapt to their surroundings and enhance the beauty of their environment. The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is both.– Alain Ducasse, French chef and restaurateur.7
Museum of Islamic Art Photographs
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha: Reflecting the Essence of Islam
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, is a modern architectural masterpiece reflecting Islam’s essence. It is built on an artificial island located 60 meters from the coast, over the waters of the Arabian Gulf. The main building has five floors and 4,225 square meters of exhibition space, while the educational wing has 2,694 square meters. The building consists of two interconnected structures, with a central courtyard joining the main building to the educational wing.
The museum collects, preserves, studies, and exhibits masterpieces of Islamic art that span three continents from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries. The galleries with permanent exhibitions cover 3,100 square meters, while the galleries of special exhibitions cover 750 square meters. The museum also features a library, classrooms, workshops, study spaces, technical and storage facilities, a gift shop, a bar restaurant, and an auditorium equipped with the latest audiovisual technology.
The main building has an angular design, and the forms become more imposing as one approaches the building. The building’s exterior is made of cream-colored limestone Magny and Chamesson from France, Jet Mist granite from the United States, and stainless steel from Germany. The interior features intricate pieces of architectural concrete in the form of small domes embedded in the place and finished with individual molds. The galleries feature dark gray porphyry stone and Brazilian lacewood that was brushed and treated to create a metallic appearance.
The building’s centerpiece is the 50-meter-high vaulted atrium, which is hidden from the outside by the walls of a central tower. The atrium features an ovule at the top that captures and reflects a pattern of molded light from within a faceted dome. The dome’s structural framework is made of stainless steel, and the ceiling is finished with individual molds.
The museum symbolizes the conservation of local identity in Arab Gulf countries. It is one of the city’s most prominent monuments and one of the emblematic icons of the neo-vernacular Qatari architecture that catalyzes urban rejuvenation.
Museum of Islamic Art Plans
Museum of Islamic Art Image Gallery
About I.M. Pei
I.M. Pei (1917 – 2019) was a Chinese-American architect known for his innovative and elegant designs, which combined modern architectural principles with classical elements. Born in Guangzhou, China, Pei moved to the United States in 1935 to study architecture. Throughout his illustrious career, Pei worked on numerous high-profile projects, including the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the iconic glass pyramid entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Pei’s architectural style is characterized by its geometric forms, clean lines, and use of natural light. He often drew inspiration from various cultures and incorporated local materials and traditional elements into his designs. Despite his modernist approach, Pei’s work remained sensitive to the context and history of each site, making him one of the most respected and influential architects of the 20th century.
- Technical Architect: Jaros Baum & Bolles, NY
- Associate Architect: Qatar Engineer & Associates
- Engineer: Sda Protec
- Structural Engineer: Leslie E. Robertson Associates
- Acoustic Engineer: Xu Acoustique París
- Electrical Engineer: Fisher Marantz Stone NY, Isometrix Lighting and Design
- Alain Ducasse Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good by de