Qatar's architectural prowess on display at Venice Biennale
Over the last decade or so Qatar has turned its country into a veritable open-air museum for art and design.
From landmark art installations, such as the striking East-West West-East by Richard Serra located in the Zekreet desert, to a gigantic Jeff Koons’ Dugong swimming alongside Doha Bay, larger-than-life installations follow you wherever you go.
Side by side with the art is a display of architecture which makes not only for a unique skyline but also challenges preconceptions of traditional structures and style, such as in the case of the Education City Mosque by Mangera Yvars Architects.
Its hyper-modernity is unlike conventional mosques, yet incorporates Arabian design elements and religious calligraphy.
"While the exhibition at the Venice Biennale showcases only a portion of Qatar's vibrant architecture, it demonstrates Qatar's significant presence in merging creativity and design in an inspiring manner"
Qatar has spent time and money selecting some of the world’s best – and often Pritzker prize-winning – architects for major projects, such as the celebrated museums, the Museum of Islamic Art by the late I.M. Pei and the National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel, both sitting proudly along Doha’s Corniche.
In recent years Zaha Hadid Architects also designed the Al Janoub football stadium in Al Wakrah and Foster and Partners designed the Lusail football stadium and the four iconic Lusail Towers in Qatar’s new sustainable city of Lusail, north of the capital Doha.
The bond between architecture, culture, and Qatar's values is cherished, especially by Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. She is the chairperson of Qatar Museums and the driving force behind Qatar Creates, a year-round cultural movement and platform for arts and design.
For the first time, Qatar is showcasing its upcoming cultural institutions at the Venice Biennale, which switches between art and architecture each year.
This year's Biennale Architettura is being held until Sunday, November 26, 2023. Qatar's representation can be found at ACP — Palazzo Franchetti, situated by the Grand Canal near the Accademia Bridge and across from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in one of Venice's picturesque locations.
The documentary exhibition Building a Creative Nation features five upcoming museums designed for the next generation. With the involvement of accomplished architects, these cultural spaces will combine architecture and culture, enhancing each other through design and creativity.
The highly anticipated Lusail Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is the standout among the set. Situated on Al Maha Island near Lusail, the museum will showcase Orientalist art in spacious galleries. It will feature a library, auditorium, and other cultural spaces spread across four floors.
The Art Mill Museum, led by Pritzker Prize recipient Alejandro Aravena and designed by ELEMENTAL, will be located in Doha's Old Port, replacing the current flour mill.
This waterfront building will transform the existing mills and silos into a vibrant destination, featuring outdoor creative venues, theatres, plazas, and streets. The museum will focus on international modern and contemporary art and is scheduled to open in 2030.
The Qatar Auto Museum, currently showcased at the National Museum of Qatar until January 20, 2024, will be designed by OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) led by Rem Koolhaas and Samir Banta.
OMA has a strong connection with Qatar, having previously designed and constructed the Qatar Foundation Headquarters and the Qatar National Library.
Spanning 30,000 square metres, the Auto Museum will not only exhibit cars from different eras and countries but also delve into their global cultural impact, exploring sustainability, and safety, and featuring a restoration and customisation centre.
Qatar Preparatory School, a vocational institution focusing on creative industries, is named after the site it occupies — a renovated former boy's school by French architect Philippe Starck.
The building will feature 3D-printed clay walls, ventilation chimneys, and intricately patterned colonnades, showcasing advanced prefabrication techniques while providing low-tech climate control. The old school will serve as a teaching venue, emphasizing education for creative businesses in Qatar.
The final cultural space The Dadu, Children's Museum of Qatar, is dedicated to nurturing and inspiring the younger generation.
It goes beyond a traditional museum concept and offers spaces for learning, exhibitions, and educational tools. Designed by UNStudio, the museum near Al Bidda Park in Doha will have a playful appearance, resembling tossed cubes, reflecting the Arabic meaning of 'Dadu.'
While the exhibition at the Venice Biennale showcases only a portion of Qatar's vibrant architecture, it demonstrates Qatar's significant presence in merging creativity and design in an inspiring manner.
Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey is a freelance journalist, author and translator. Ulrike specialises in travel and lifestyle, with a leaning toward the Middle East. Her bylines have appeared in international publications such as BBC Travel, Positive News, Good Housekeeping, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, Nat Geo, The Independent, Fodor’s, TIME, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, and many more.
Follow her on Twitter: @ULemminWoolfrey