QATAR – “If we really want people to come here and stay for a while, then we need to make room for them and offer them interesting routes through the rooms,” notes the Chinese-American star architect, Ieoh Ming Pei. Here, he is referring to his latest project: the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar’s capital city Doha. It is the only one of its kind in the Arabic World and officially opened on December 1, 2008. Pei positioned the building in a highly-visible location on an artificial island in the bay, approximately 60 meters into the sea.
The main building is nearly windowless. This means that the 5,000 square meters of exhibit halls go without incident natural daylight. This is for conservation reasons. And exactly where SCHOTT comes into play. The display cases produced in one piece are made from the anti-reflective glass “Amiran” from SCHOTT in Grünenplan (Germany). The site delivered around 2,300 panes of “Amiran” laminated safety glass to the display case builder, Click Netherfield in the United Kingdom, for 3,200 square meters of glazing in total. This amounted to more than 250 tons of glass. In total, 18 different types of display cases can be found at the museum. “Special logistics were needed for the units, some of which weighed more than 500 kilograms,” explains the project manager, Frank Berke. “For instance, we had to use a few flat bed trucks for heavy loads equipped with forklifts to get these to the seaports in Hamburg and Antwerpen and ship the glass pieces to Doha or by truck to the United Kingdom,respectively,” he adds. The understated exterior of the building belies the wonders to be found inside. Around 800 precious exhibits from the national state collection, as well as some from the ruling Al Thani family, are arranged by topic in the large cases made of “Amiran” and then attractively lit with precise fiber optics. These include pieces of clothing from Iran, rubies from India, an old frankincense burner from Syria, a North African Koran from the 14th century, precious vessels from Iraq, as well as objects made of ivory, silk, gold and gems that are more than 1,000 years old. The exhibits present the entire spectrum of Islamic art. A “miniature Qatar” – this is perhaps the best way to describe this new museum. Careful handling and extremely gentle lighting are both very important in preserving all of these treasures in their full beauty as long as possible for posterity. The costs to build this museum are said to be 800 million dollars. Apparently, the grand sum of two billion euros has been invested in the state collection. Education is the magic word that has captured Doha. Additional museums are already in planning, one for photography and one on the history of Qatar.