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Capturing NMoQ's legacy: The anniversary book

09 July 2020

Upholding a nation's legacy, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) is both a monument and metaphor honouring Qatar's heritage, traditions, and cultural identity. It represents the interplay between the country's past and present; a sacred space where Qatar's history meets its contemporary vision for the future.

 

An aerial view of the National Museum of Qatar, designed by architect Jean Nouvel and opened March 2019. Photo by Iwan Baan, 2019
An aerial view of the National Museum of Qatar, designed by architect Jean Nouvel and opened March 2019. Photo by Iwan Baan, 2019

In celebration of the museum's first anniversary, a new publication "National Museum of Qatar" has just been launched. It gives us all a valuable opportunity to switch off our screens and instead to enjoy experiencing the museum in a tactile, literary and visually pleasing way.

Written by Philip Jodidio, a renowned author with more than 100 published books in the area of contemporary architecture, and supported by Dr Karen Exell, an experienced researcher in the field of museums, the book narrates the journey through the physical museum. It features striking photography by Iwan Baan, a Dutch photographer and Khalifa Al Obaidly, former Director of Fire Station: Artist in Residence and acclaimed Qatari photographer.

The book encapsulates the vision of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, and outlines the symbolic significance of the museum for the nation. It also features the remarkable architecture of French architect, Jean Nouvel and the meticulously restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani.

 

Dramatic full-page photography is featured throughout the new “National Museum of Qatar”. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020
Dramatic full-page photography is featured throughout the new “National Museum of Qatar”. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020

ABOUT THE BOOK

Randa Takieddine, Director of Publishing at the National Museum of Qatar and a key person involved in the project, shares her insights into the content and distinct design elements of the book.

Can you elaborate on the significance of the design?

The desert rose inspired the museum's architecture, and the design concept of the book echoes the characteristics of this natural phenomenon through the choice of sandy coloured cover material with blind debossing continued through screen-printed edges to create an 'object' that, like the museum, appears to be emerging from the sand. The idea was to give visitors a sense of taking a piece of the museum home with them.

 

Echoing the characteristics of the desert rose,  the “National Museum of Qatar” book emulates its sandy colour. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020
Echoing the characteristics of the desert rose, the “National Museum of Qatar” book emulates its sandy colour. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020
"A powerful element of the book is the contrast between the subtle and calm exterior, inspired by the desert, and the vivid internal pages, lavishly illustrated with striking photography of the soaring interlocking discs captured against the sky, and the intricate relationship between the new architecture and the Old Palace"
Randa Takieddine

The interior pages mirror the museum journey, punctuated by quotes creating subtle pauses with no loud chapter announcements. Drawing on the absence of straight interior or exterior walls, we positioned the text in counterpoint to the other graphic elements on the page (titles, footers, folios) which follow an elusive grid. Photos throughout the book are condensed into a series of 'picture wells', with minimal interruption, to create a seamless visual journey.

 

Elegantly designed, the “National Museum of Qatar” ’book is a work of art in its own right. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020
Elegantly designed, the “National Museum of Qatar” ’book is a work of art in its own right. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020

What are some highlights of the book?

Just like the museum itself, there are many highlights in the book! These include the beautiful images of the restored Palace of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al Thani in Chapter 1, which retraces its significance as the former seat of government and home to the first National Museum of Qatar.

 

Large-scale photography, architectural drawings and plans perfectly capture the essence of the museum and restored palace. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020
Large-scale photography, architectural drawings and plans perfectly capture the essence of the museum and restored palace. Photo by Khalid Abdulrahim, 2020

This is followed by a feast of photos of the new building, which have a dreamy, timeless quality like the desert itself, and are accompanied by architectural drawings and plans. An insightful interview with Jean Nouvel explains the concepts behind the project and how he united the archaic form of the desert rose with the dynamic waterfront of contemporary Doha.

The final chapter takes readers on a journey through the museum, which is introduced by an interview with the museum's Director, Sheikha Amna Al Thani, who elaborates on the museum's narrative.

Can you tell us more about this chapter?

A highlight of this chapter is the natural history gallery, with its displays of specially commissioned models of flora and fauna, designed to show the great diversity of life in the peninsula. Visitors can see up close completely lifelike creatures, including a caracal and a whale shark suspended from the ceiling and a dugong, among many others.

The book allows readers to experience the drama of this encounter in magnificent panoramic images of the gallery. These are all shown against the  backdrop of the films created to tell the story of the country in a completely immersive way. Projected on the sloping interior walls of the museum, the films required a great deal of technical experimentation and expertise to perfect. The book also captures the complex juxtaposition of the objects on display and the projected images on the wall. It creates an exquisite spectacle which highlights the vast scale of the interior, where the size of the structure sometimes dwarfs people.

 

A view of of the Natural History Gallery at the National Museum of Qatar. Photo by NMoQ, 2020

Who should read this book?

The book is for both local and global audiences. For Qatari people, in particular, it provides a lasting record of the history of their country and the traditions of their ancestors. It also documents the achievements of the last few decades, which is especially crucial for the younger generation.

The book will also appeal to tourists who visit the National Museum of Qatar and want to keep a souvenir of their experience. For those international audiences who can't attend in person, but are interested in museums, architecture and in learning more about the history, values and the vision of this exceptional country, it's ideal. We hope the book will inspire people to come and see the museum for themselves!

The “National Museum of Qatar” book is available online at IN-Q Gift Shop, Amazon and Thames and Hudson and in the museum’s gift shop.

Find out more about the National Museum of Qatar and its programmes

Curious about Dugongs? Read our recent blog post on these amazing sea creatures

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