Museum of Islamic Art Opens in Doha, Qatar, Optimistic Design Symbols New Era


By Emily Waldorf


Joyous fireworks and a performance by Yo-Yo Ma marked the inaugural celebration of the I.M. Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art in Dohar, Qatar

In an effort to transform Qatar into an official global arts destination, the I.M. Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art recently unveiled itself. The building is an imposing, fortress-like geometric shape, with a refreshing simplicity and sense of purpose that is rarely seen in the glitzy cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  

Mr. Pei wanted to make sure his building would not be obstructed by future development in Qatar, so he got special permission from the chairman of the museum’s board, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, to build on a protected seafront corniche.  The Museum of Islamic Art contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world, including rare manuscripts, textiles, and ceramics.

In his article in The New York Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff describes the invigorating and optimistic message of I.M. Pei’s design:  “Viewed under the light of a spectacular evening fireworks display, the museum’s colossal geometric form has an ageless quality, evoking a past when Islamic art and architecture were a nexus of world culture. At the same time it conveys a hope for reconnecting again.”

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