The project was designed by Jean Nouvel, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect and it was under reconstruction for 10 years. The design was inspired by desert rose, a formation created when minerals crystallize below the surface of a salt basin, and consists of a series of interlocking discs that are made from steel and glass-reinforced concrete.
"The desert rose is a symbol of the desert because it’s an architecture created by time and the desert itself. Nobody knows what the inside of a desert rose looks like, and we created a typology of intersections that makes you question what is inside it," Mr. Nouvel stated.
The structure is organized in 3 sections: Beginnings, Life in Qatar and Building the Nation. Some parts of the structure intentionally protrude outwards in order to shade the central yard (that reminds the traditional Baraha where travelers would unload their products) and to prevent the sunlight from penetrating the interior rooms. Moreover, some gaps between the aforementioned discs host frameless glass openings through which people can see the museum's gardens, the yard and the Doha Bay.
The exhibits of the museum focus on the land's history that begins about 700 million years ago. An impressive feature is the restored palace of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al Thani, the son of the founder of Qatar. The palace was built in 1906 to host Qatar’s royal family and it was later used as the original National Museum.
The structure's formation is elliptical and creates a path that leads visitors to a series of galleries. The guides focus on history, archaeology, music, art and poetry of Qatar. The museum covers a 52,000 m2 area providing about 1,5km of galleries. Moreover, it houses restaurants, cafes and a 220-seat auditorium.
"This museum is a modern-day caravanserai. From there you leave for the desert and you return from it bringing back treasures: images that remain forever engraved on your memory," Mr. Nouvel commented.