Jean Nouvel in the Desert

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | |

Nicolai Oroussoff has a beautiful piece in today's NYTimes about Jean Nouvel's new National Museum of Qatar. Read the full article here.

Few architects have invested more time trying to bridge the gap between the high-tech aesthetics of the West and the traditions of the Middle East than Jean Nouvel.

His design for the Arab World Institute in Paris in 1987 was dominated by mechanical, light-regulating apertures arranged in a pattern that evoked Islamic motifs. A planned branch of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi will be shaded by a gigantic dome that turns its grounds into a kind of oasis. And workers are putting the final touches on an office tower in Doha, Qatar, that is sheathed in aluminum latticework and capped by a filigreed, mosquelike dome.

But Mr. Nouvel’s design for the National Museum of Qatar, scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, may be that French architect’s most overtly poetic act of cultural synthesis yet. One of a number of major museum projects in Doha, including I. M. Pei’s year-old Museum of Islamic Art, it is part of a government push to encourage the exchange of cultural traffic — between East and West, tradition and modernity — after many years in which it seemed to move only one way. Every level of Mr. Nouvel’s project, from its materials to its dominant forms to its sprawling layout, reflects a richly imaginative effort to retain a connection to the fading world of the Bedouins from which modern Qatar sprang, while also embracing the realities of a rapidly urbanizing society.