Museum of Islamic Art by IM Pei



Here is a full set of images of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, designed by architect IM Pei, which officially opened yesterday (Monday).


Here is some info from the museum:



Inaugural Exhibition Celebrates Cultural Diversity and Complexity of Islamic Art


Doha, QATAR, November 22, 2008 – The Museum of Islamic Art, a new cultural icon for the Gulf region, will open its doors to the public on December 1, 2008.


Dedicated to reflecting the full vitality, complexity and diversity of the arts of the Islamic world, the Museum of Islamic Art will collect, preserve, study and exhibit masterpieces spanning three continents from the 7th to the 19th century.


Under the leadership of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority’s Board of Trustees, the Museum of Islamic Art will be a new international centre for learning and creativity that advances the cultural vision of the State of Qatar.


The Museum of Islamic Art will be officially inaugurated later today by His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, in an opening celebration attended by Heads of State, dignitaries and museum leadership from around the world. Highlights of the grand opening festivities will be a performance by The Silk Road Ensemble with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.


Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, the 376,740-square-foot Museum of Islamic Art rises from the sea, in Doha Bay in the Arabian Gulf and houses a collection of international masterpieces in galleries encircling a soaring, five-storey-high domed atrium.


The inaugural installation of the permanent collection will showcase highlights ranging geographically over 7,000 miles from Spain to India and spanning more than 1,300 years. A special exhibition in partnership with leading cultural institutions will explore cross-cultural exchange across the Muslim world.


“The opening of the Museum of Islamic Art is a source of immense pride for the State of Qatar. In future years, the new museum will evolve into a place of learning and a platform for dialogue. It will bring together people of all ages, people living in the local community and visitors from around the world for enjoyment, stimulation and greater understanding of our cultures through the appreciation of art,” commented Museum of Islamic Art Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.


“With the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art, the state of Qatar has become an important contributor to the international art world,” said Abdulla Al Najjar, CEO of the Qatar Museums Authority. “We are proud to open the doors of this magnificent I.M Pei masterpiece, and to share with the world the exceptional depth and vitality of Islamic art.”


“We are thrilled to be able to display more than 800 pieces in the inaugural installation of our permanent collection, including many masterpieces of Islamic art that have rarely or never been exhibited before,” said Oliver Watson, director of the Museum of Islamic Art. “We also look forward to beginning a cultural dialogue with our partner institutions from around the world, exploring the influence of Islamic art in our first temporary exhibition, Beyond Boundaries: Islamic Art Across Cultures.”


The Building

The Museum of Islamic Art is the result of a journey of discovery conducted by I.M. Pei, whose quest to understand the diversity of Islamic architecture led him on a world tour. During visits to the Grand Mosque in Córdoba, Spain; Fatehpur Sikri, a Mughal capital in India; the Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus, Syria; and the ribat fortresses at Monastir and Sousse in Tunisia, he found that influences of climate and culture led to many interpretations of Islamic architecture, but none evoked the true essence he sought.


Mr. Pei’s final design inspiration was the 13th-century sabil (ablutions fountain) of the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt (9th century). In the “austerity and simplicity” of the sabil, Mr. Pei stated, he found “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.


Declining to build the structure on any of the proposed sites along the Corniche, Mr. Pei suggested a stand-alone island be created to ensure future buildings would never encroach on the Museum. 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.


Built of fine materials, such as cream-coloured Magny and Chamesson limestone from France, Jet Mist granite from the United States and stainless steel from Germany, as well as architectural concrete from Qatar, the Museum is composed of a five-storey main building and a two-storey Education Wing, which are connected across a central courtyard. The main building’s angular volumes step back progressively as they rise around a164-foot-high domed atrium, which is concealed from outside view by the walls of a central tower. 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.


A glass curtain wall on the north side of the Museum offers panoramic views of the Gulf and West Bay area of Doha from all five floors of the atrium. Ceilings are embellished with intricate coffered domes, and perforated metal chandeliers hang in the atrium. Two more lanterns, each 100 feet tall, mark the boat dock on the west side of the Museum, creating a grand entrance for guests arriving by boat.

The galleries, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte from Paris, France feature dark grey porphyry stone and Louro Faya, a Brazilian lacewood that was brushed and treated to create a metallic appearance, which contrast with the light-coloured stonework of the rest of the Museum. To protect the fragile antiquities on display, the exhibition rooms feature specially designed cases and lighting. Mr. Wilmotte also created custom furniture for the museum, inspired by Pei’s architectural style.

The Museum’s education programs are housed in a 29,000-square-foot wing, located to the east of the main building across a fountain courtyard. The Education Wing, scheduled to open late 2009, includes a light-filled reading room in the Museum library, classrooms, workshops, study spaces, and technical and storage facilities. Among the latter is the conservation laboratory, an important new resource for the entire region. Underscoring the central role of education in the Museum of Islamic Art, the Education Wing will host educational and community activities to develop and foster an understanding and appreciation for Islamic art.

Visitor Information
The Museum of Islamic Art
Al Corniche
Doha, Qatar
Telephone:  +974 422 4444

The Museum of Islamic Art is open Saturday through Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Friday: 2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, December 25 and the first day of Eid.

There is no charge for admission to the museum or to the first Temporary Exhibition.

Posted on Tuesday December 2nd 2008 at 12:13 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • brown_ie

    sooooo 80’s ….. I dont like it at all!!!

  • max hsbib


  • rodger

    almost convincing. wonderful abstraction, fall short in a few instances… the underside of the stair seems out of place tectonically.

    still impressive.

  • krimane

    wow, simple is beautiful. I digg this a lot!

  • blackSTYLIN

    i’m loving the stairs! and the shear volume of the space!

  • victoria

    i think it just looks gorgeous… really a paradise
    i would love to work there!!!

  • waaaton

    no pyramids and circles???

  • amsam

    “a severe architecture that comes to life in the sun” indeed. Absolutely perfect throughout. Pei is at the top of his game.

    (Well OK, that staircase is kind of a lot to look at.)

    But aside from that. Perfect.

  • Stanley.K

    Absolutely Beautiful!

  • ant

    great! way better than the schlock built in dubai. its a rectilinear breath of fresh air after hadid’s mother-of-pearl coated camel turd opera house in dubai….

  • Arild

    proves that post modernism is about to find its 2008 shape. i think its nice in a chilling way. the two umbrella towers spoils it a little though.

  • One

    Impressive. Fine touch f Pei still being strong.

    I thought Pei has sold his (old) office to his partners, but now he is doing this under his name. Must have been accompany a wonderful details on breifs.


  • M

    This will go down in history as one of his very best.


  • jon

    a modern take on the islamic culture and architecture. very well excecuted and amazing. definitely something different compared to all those over the top building projects in the city.

  • E

    Such a breath of fresh air, great to see a modern middle eastern architecture that’s honest and doesn’t try too hard to impress. Absolutely beautiful building.

  • Ben

    amazing volumetric play … from far away it has the impression of a mosque … great interrelation between cultural elements and contemporary architectural detailing ….

  • romeo

    It’s metaphisical . I m impressed, the building follows a own personal particular logic

  • OLGV.

    very very nice, really islamic and really contemporary.

  • poster

    how can you like it??? it is like theme-park architecture

  • vidkym

    That’s pretty amazing

  • wartian

    a genuine architecture that we waitng for..!

  • bence

    i raher find it disturbing in a spatial sense that every interior picture is absolutely symetrical,..almost like those pictures where you would have to compare 2 images and a find a mistake…in this sense a banal translation of islamic ornamentation,…but yes also shows we still tend to find symetry beautifull…do we need beautifull???

  • Vico

    “Declining to build the structure on any of the proposed sites… Mr. Pei suggested a stand-alone island be created…”

    I always insist on the same approach with my clients. Artificial islands are so very ‘now’. But you’d be surprised how much more difficult this approach is in the Melbourne suburbs…

    Seriously though, I am intrigued by this project. I like to see an architect cross the unspoken line and engage with historic natter and motifs in a meaningful way. Here the carefully neutral overtones of conference centre or parliament impinge on the mystery and beauty of an Islamic museum, but the intent and intellect behind the spaces is still remarkable.

  • jon


  • Jer

    If only we all had clients that had the big bucks to go out and let each of us design those ‘masterpieces’ we all have in our system — ho-hum… to be a ‘star’chitect. Right place – right time, i guess.

  • Isidor

    Does anyone of you guys know Louis Kahn?

  • Vla

    It is monumental, it is traditional and it is post-modern…but it’s got that certain feel to it that makes you wanna grab a camera and go there and take thousands of pictures of this building.

  • up

    wanted to jump on this building, directly dust2 recalled))
    Ps. reading room of the extraordinary, even with the photos shows calm

  • liked it, so… white

  • Louis Kahn was my initial reaction to seeing that chord opening in the rotunda tower. Kahn was a master of secondary light. I think this is part of Pei’s failure of the building. It seems to be a weird hybrid of simple geometric form and intricate Islamic detailing. To use that exterior colonnade in a gunmetal color is strange.

    The mosque this is based off of is essentially an open structure that protects a fountain with a tower and high walls. The marriage of this central exhibition gallery and the surrounding needs to be better related. A large central courtyard that contains this gallery building would have bee more interesting, then say a large post-modern block sitting on a reflecting pool begging to be connected to the Institute of Public Administration, in Ahmedabad, India.

    One has to wonder about a building that is supposedly based on Islamic design, but seems to share more in common with an Indian building. Are we asking for a peace accord? Or just being slightly ignorant to one’s source of inspirations?

    This is still a beautiful building. I particularly love the rotunda, which is the central focus of Pei’s work here.

  • y

    Really interesting play of geometry and volumes. Overall very strong and majestic yet with interesting details up-close. Must be a great space to experience.

  • p

    loved it. simple and poetic in a way.

  • Joe the architect

    serene, and powerful

  • shishir

    i love the exterior.simple yet elegant. couple more picture of the interior
    would give a clear idea about the whole project.

    And why I.M.Pei’s website “” does not show anything about this museum !!!!!!!

  • Finally something in the middle east worth inhabiting.

  • OMID

    arabian gulf!!
    just persian Gulf .
    please correct this dear dezeen.

    by the way this project is as like as the other Pei’s projects is fabulous and wonderful .
    The mass and space made sense of abstract islamic space and that would be enough.
    Congratulations Quatar.

  • Luxury Larry

    Thought it was a computer generated images at first till I spot the ‘Officially Opened’. Yes it look very dated but then this is I.M.Pei and his design is always monumental in my eyes.

  • peridothound

    All these responses of pure praise blow my mind – can anyone elaborate beyond pure fellation of the pictures?

    The massing in light is interesting, yes – but consider the fenestration and those doinky spindle things on the water front: TERRIBLE! This project just screams unconscious pretention. Its not THAT precious – all those severe exterior surfaces but you cannot inhabit any of the space. Pei had an island built so he could place Pei Mountain on top of it, and the proportions are akward, chunky and again I say, the fenestration is just plain stupid, incoherent – especially in relationship to the music of the masses in light and shadow.

    I agree with R1 – this thing fell out of the 80s. Except for that killer dome interior – that looks flawlessly beautiful.

  • Joe

    Interesting… now please show where the museum goes.. .all I see is a lot of wasted space for some questionable arhictectural ideals. I don’t hate the building… but it seems to be a building for the sake of a building and I imagine all the galleries are just buried in the sub levels anyway.

  • Gabriel

    Pei still got it!
    anyway, pictures 2 and 4 are identical to some work from Cubism and it really works… Pics are absolutely amazing and taken with lots of intention. I’d love to know more about this work any floor plans¿? or sections? the might be quite interesting…

  • tengyun

    very good

  • K

    absolutely beautiful, simple geometry with good proportion.

  • Absolutely beautiful museum! i just love’it, I have to visit there once.

  • iSun

    *correction: do you mean PERSIAN GULF? cause there is no arabian gulf !

    obviously a simplified version of old Islamic mosques specially in design of the interior of the dome which to the eye of those who are familiar with the middle eastern mosque designs may seem a total surrender to the expected KARBANDI style, but the geometry still sparkles despite of loosing it’s complexity.

    i like the the facade volumes Assembly they totally speak out their origin and traditional orders, and bravo! the site was a perfect choice, over all i congratulate the Architect and the Arabian King for their win-win victory!


  • Kais

    to iSun:

    It is the Arabin Gulf as the easten and the western part of the Gulf people are Arabs despite Persian claims.
    contain your ego… not enough space in this page.

  • Mel

    Saw it in person. I think of it as a quiet jewel box. The walk up to it has a cascading step fountain with palms on either side. It is so serene and beautiful inside. Also you can’t see it well from the photos but if you look back at the building at an angle, the top “box” seems to be a woman’s eyes looking through a burka (that’s my take on it). Virtually none of the art is from Qatar and the displays, while beautiful, are underlit and, as usual, the captions too small. There are also video displays that show items in the room up close but they are not identified on the screen so you don’t know where in the room they are housed.

    Oddly, the “cafe” is a vending machine. Also, the people at the entrance are likely to be real Qatars (you may not know but most Qatars don’t work so it was surprising to see women in burkas working).

  • revival of traditional style

  • Rida

    Sorry but the architecture for the museum does not have a whole lot to do with Islamic art. There are only a few stars sprinkled to make it look like it, but the tables, the lighting, the walls have nothing to do with Islamic art. The dome is a disaster. To me it looks like a glorified bungalow. This museum is clearly done with a western architecture with a few Islamic motives that hardly fit into the overall design.

    • trevosa

      I. M. Pei é um arquiteto contemporâneo e suas obras seguem seu estilo. Existem traços da arquitetura Islâmica, não é uma obra islâmica. Se ele fizesse isso estaria copiando e não criando.

  • Robyn

    I see this as Islamic architecture at its purest level. It is truly inspiring. It shows culture and religion within a modern world. Perhaps, the world could do with more of this philosohpy in politics and personal understanding.

  • agagnu

    Not I.M. Pei’s architectural best! The interior details are the gem. The strong form should not be ‘messed up’ by other forms and the there-arched cutout in the peripheral wall is the weakest rendition. The NGA Gallery in Washington DC is perhaps his best.