Qatar announces three major museums designed by OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, and ELEMENTAL

Triple Whammy

Qatar announces three major museums designed by OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, and ELEMENTAL

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena on a panel discussing Qatar’s creative economy at the Doha Forum. (Courtesy Qatar Museums)

Just a few short days before the public debut of the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum at the Doha Sports City Complex, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums (QM), has announced plans for three additional major museums for the Qatari capital city.

They are: The Art Mill, a contemporary art campus with both dedicated exhibition and performance spaces designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena of ELEMENTAL with landscapes designed by Günther Vogt; Lusail, a Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum exploring “the influence of the Middle East and wider Islamic world in the arts” that will include nearly 560,000 of gallery space, an auditorium, library, and more, and OMA’s Qatar Auto Museum, which will feature 430,000 of permanent exhibition space “tracking the evolution of the automobile from its invention through today and how it has influenced culture in Qatar,” along with temporary exhibition space, a classic car restoration center, and a children’s activity zone featuring driving simulators and other car-themed interactive diversions.

The forthcoming trio of high-profile cultural projects led by QM were revealed by Sheikha Al Mayassa revealed during a panel discussion at the two-day Doha Forum that was focused on Qatar’s creative economy and the current and future institutions that will help to propel it. She was joined by Aravena and Jacques Herzog along with fellow panelists Abdulrahman Hesham Al Sowaidi, Acting CEO of Qatar Development Bank, Najla El Zein, a Beirut-based artist who designed the public seating at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022’s signature Flag Plaza, and David Beckham.

“We have never done a museum before, and so we ourselves are examples of the creative economy as something that requires trust,” said Aravena during the panel of his firm’s commission, which will be realized at the site of a historic Doha flour mill and in addition to the aforementioned exhibition and performance spaces include dedicated space for artist residency programs, production facilities, public gardens, a “village for Qatari creative industries,” and more. ELEMENTAL won the bid for the massive project via competition in 2017.

“One of its opportunities is that you can bet on people. With the Art Mill, we are trying to trigger some consequences for local industry even before construction starts,” Aravena added. “The Art Mill will not just be a perfectly finished object but an opportunity for young designers, artisans, craftspeople in Qatar to come together to deliver the knowledge they have accumulated and contribute to the building, so that it not only houses a great collection but expands to more popular audiences.”

While the Art Mill might be ELEMENTAL’s inaugural museum commission, Herzog & de Meuron is certainly no stranger to high-profile cultural commissions. Said Herzog of the Lusail project, which per a press release will be home to the world’s most extensive collection of Orientalist paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, rare texts, and applied arts:

“As this project has gone forward, it has become more like what Qatar itself tries to be, which is a platform for exchange and debate—putting things on the table, and not just saying polite things. This debate aspect is important to a museum where the collection is about how the East and West has been in exchange about political, social, and cultural issues from long ago. That becomes the main topic. The building is a kind of vessel that inside has a complex topography, a clash of fragments of different places and functions. What we have learned during this process, to make space for that aspect of dialogue, is what will make the project important for Qatar and for us.”

In addition to the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, designed by Catalan architect Joan Sibina, Qatar, a small and superlatively wealthy Arab country that forms a stubby digit extending into the Persian Gulf, has completed several major museum projects since 2008 including the Museum of Islamic Art (I.M. Pei), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Jean-François Bodin), and the National Museum of Qatar (Jean Nouvel). Dadu, Children’s Museum of Qatar, a first-of-its-kind-for-the-region new institution designed by Dutch firm UNStudio is also in development. Serving as a physical anchor of and startup hub for Qatar’s burgeoning creative economy is M7 in the Msheireb Downtown Doha development zone. Joining M7 is a number of realized and planned creative resources and initiatives such as the just-announced Liwan Design Studios and Labs. As detailed in a press announcement, the trio of new museums will “will be integrated with all these institutions and initiatives and more, helping to complete the cultural ecosystem of Qatar and advance the nation’s creative economy.”

Project timelines and design particulars of the new museums from OMA, ELEMENTAL, and Herzog & de Meuron are forthcoming. The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum opens March 31.