Yesterday the Qatar Museum Authority and Jean Nouvel (Pritzker Prize-winning architect) unveiled plans for the new National Museum of Qatar. The cultural center is inspired by the desert architecture and lives of the Bedouin culture as well as a deep-seated respect for the hot desert climate. The new museum will be the first monument travelers see from the airport and the sustainable design of the complex and surrounding landscapes will help prove Qatar to be a forward-looking country.

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From above, the arrangement of the 430,000 square foot sustainably-designed museum suggests a caravanserai, which is a traditional enclosed marketplace that supported commerce and people who were moving across the desert. Nouvel’s design is made up of a series of interlocking disks with cavities inside buffered from the hot desert sun. The new museum will be built around a historic structure, the Fariq Al Salatah Palace, but will have new exhibitions and provide a better understanding of the life in the Gulf region. Inside there will be multiple cafes and shops as well as research centers, laboratories and offices.

Outside there is a 1.2 million sq foot landscaped park that interprets the Qatari desert landscape and is specifically designed for the hot desert sun. It includes “native grasses and indigenous plants, such as pomegranate trees, date palms, herbs and the Sidra tree, the national tree of Qatar.” The entire complex will seek LEED Silver certification, relying mostly on traditional building practices to create shady and cool areas with thermal buffer zones. The interlocking disks of the building will provide deep overhangs for outdoor promenades and minimize the transmission of heat into the interior spaces. Steel and concrete will be the main building materials, both of which will be sourced locally.

Photo credit: Artefactory/Ateliers Jean Nouvel