The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar

The Museum of Islamic Art is a cultural building in Qatar. It was designed by I.M. Pei, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and it opened its doors to the public on December 1, 2008.

The museum rises 376,740-square-foot from the sea, and it houses a set of international masterpieces in galleries surrounding a rising five-floors-high domed atrium. The building stands in the sea some 195 feet off Doha’s Corniche. A park of approximately 64 acres of dunes and oases on the shoreline behind the Museum offers shelter and a picturesque backdrop.

Pei made a world tour to discover the diverse Islamic architecture, he visited the Grand Mosque in Cordoba in Spain; Fatehpur Sikri, the Mughal capital in India; the Umayyed Great Mosque in Damascus, Syria; and the Ribat fortress at Monastir and Sousse in Tunisia, but his great inspiration was the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Toloun in Cairo. Pei said: “I found in the austerity and simplicity of the Ahmad Ibn Toloun sabil, a severe architecture that comes to life in the sun, with its shadows and shades of colour. The sabil offered an almost Cubist expression of geometric progression, which evoked an abstract vision of the key design elements of Islamic architecture.”

At the top of the atrium, an oculus captures and reflects patterned light within the faceted dome. The desert sun plays a fundamental role, transforming the architecture into a play of light and shadows.’

The building is constructed from fine materials like French chamesson limestone and cream colored magny, American Jet Mist granite, German stainless steel, and Qatari architectural concrete. The Museum includes a five leveled building and a two leveled education extension that are linked through a main centric yard. The major building’s corner shapes gradually return and go back because they soar round a 164 foot high atrium that is domed. It is hidden from the external sight through a centric tower’s walls. At the apex of the atrium, patterned light within the dome is reflected. The sun of the desert is playing a major role, converting the architecture into a play of light and shadows.

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