Regional News

Qatar in global search for museum designer

July 2015

A three-stage international design competition was launched last month in Qatar in a global search to pick a designer for a world-class art gallery that will rise on a historic waterfront site in the centre of capital Doha.

The Art Mill International Design Competition, which is seeking practising architects with at least seven years’ experience as well as to discover emerging talent, was launched by Qatar Museums (QM) and London-based Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), a strategic architectural consultancy specialising in the selection of contemporary designers.

Art Mill, to be linked with the existing Museum of Islamic Art and the forthcoming National Museum of Qatar, will be spread over one million sq ft, and is set to join Doha’s ensemble of acclaimed museums.

The construction of the project is expected to begin in 2017, said MRC.

Currently occupied by Qatar Flour Mills, the site extends into Doha Bay, with the Arabian Sea on three sides. It adjoins the park encircling IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art, and is close to key landmarks, including the corniche and the Jean Nouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar (under construction).

The new museum is expected to comprise a total built-up area of between 60,000 sq m and 80,000 sq m of gross space in addition to an underground parking.

The site area, which is approximately 83,500 sq m, will be integrated with the design, offering opportunities for cross-programming and public engagement as well as creating a sustainable setting, it added.

While predominantly comprising gallery and exhibition space, the museum also includes extensive education, conference and event space, as well as state-of-the-art conservation and storage to match the diversity of the collection. It will also feature community facilities, food and beverage outlets and family amenities, MRC stated.

The building and site will accommodate integrated transport initiatives such as the metro, waterbuses, cycling and walking. Innovation in energy management and preservation of natural resources are expected to be key features of the design and operation, it added.

As per the rules of the competition, initially 20 architects will be selected and given the task of conceiving strategies for the site and its links to the city. Of these, five will be shortlisted, and asked to provide detailed concept designs for the conversion and extension of the present flour mill structures.

Entries were due to be submitted late last month (June 26). Once the candidates make it to the longlist, they will receive £5,000 ($7,619) towards expenses, while those who are shortlisted will get £30,000 ($45,716).

The winning practice will be announced early next year, it added.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, acting chief executive officer, said Qatar Museums is very enthusiastic about the competition and open-minded about who might apply and win.

“Qatar Museums is looking for an outstanding architect who will take immense care with the project. It presents an ideal opportunity both for new talent and designers who are on the cusp of developing as well as celebrated architects who genuinely connect with the site,” he added.

The Art Mill initiative presents a new model for international, open competitions. It is devised to reduce the burden of design work (and risk) for architects at Stage One, while directing them to analyse and explain their suitability for the project.

Malcolm Reading, the contest organiser and MRC chairman, said: “This is a life-changing opportunity for an architect dedicated to excellence. The site has a remarkable open aspect with three sides adjoining Doha Bay, and the other linking to the city.”

“The Flour Mills buildings have an authentic monumentality with their positioning, scale and noble forms. The industrial process of milling grain has left a fascinating legacy in the layout and spaces of the existing buildings on the site, notably high ceiling spaces and a rhythmic, patterned promenade of vertical silos. Re-using and adapting these structures will be integral to the project,” he noted.

“Our approach here balances competitor and client needs but, nevertheless, will test and probe practices. They should demonstrate evidence of passion, attention to detail, ability to envision transformational design, clarity of communication and experience that is relevant to the project objectives,” he added.

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