The Museum of Islamic Art
I.M. Pei Architect

March 30, 2009 /

Doha, Qatar

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

The Museum of Islamic Art is located on the south side of Doha's Corniche on a man-made island sixty meters from the shore. A new C-shaped peninsula provides protection from the Arabian Gulf on the north and from unsightly industrial buildings on the east.

A park of dunes and oases on the shoreline behind the Museum offers shelter and a picturesque backdrop.

The museum is connected to the shore by two pedestrian bridges and a vehicular bridge. Two 100 feet tall lanterns mark the boat dock on the west side of the Museum, creating a grand entrance for guests arriving by boat.

The desert sun plays a fundamental role, transforming the architecture into a play of light and shadows./I.M.Pei

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

The Museum 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.

This was one of the most difficult jobs I ever undertook. If one could find the essence of Islamic architecture, might it not lie in the desert, severe and simple in its design, where sunlight brings forms to life?
I believe I found what I was looking for in the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo (876-879).

The small ablutions fountain surrounded by double arcades on three sides, a slightly later addition to the architecture, is an almost Cubist expression of geometric progression from the octagon to the square and the square to the circle. This severe architecture comes to life in the sun, with its shadows and shades of color.

/I.M. Pei

The Museum is composed of two cream colored limestone buildings, a five-story main building and a two-story Education Wing, connected across a central courtyard.

The main building's angular volumes step back as they rise around a 5-story high domed atrium, concealed from outside view by the walls of a central tower. An oculus, at the top of the atrium, captures and reflects patterned light within the faceted dome.

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

A geometric matrix transforms the dome's descent from circle to octagon, to square, and finally to four triangular flaps, which angle back at different heights to become the atrium's columns.

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

On the north side of the Museum a 45 meter tall glass curtain wall, the only major window, offers panoramic views of the Gulf and West Bay area of Doha from all five floors of the atrium.

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

The treasures from the permanent collection are exhibited on two floors of galleries that encircle the atrium. The galleries 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-colored stonework of the rest of the Museum.

To protect the fragile antiquities on display, the exhibition rooms feature specially designed cases and lighting.

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

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.

The Museum's education programs are housed in a wing to the east of the main building across a fountain courtyard. The Education Wing includes a light-filled reading room in the Museum library, classrooms, workshops, study spaces, and technical and storage facilities.

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

Photo courtesy the Museum of Islamic Art

I remained faithful to the inspiration I had found in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, derived from its austerity and simplicity. It was this essence that I attempted to bring forth in the desert sun of Doha.


Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectSite Planmia_20.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectEntrance Level Planmia_21.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectSecond Floor Planmia_22.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectThird Floor Planmia_23.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectFourth Floor Planmia_24.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectFifth Floor Planmia_25.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectWest East Sectionmia_26.jpg
Drawing courtesy I.M. Pei ArchitectNorth South Section

Facts about The Museum of Islamic Art

Total area:

382,118 ft2

I. M. Pei Architect

Project Manager:

Perry Y. Chin


Hiroshi Okamoto

Site Representative:

TohTsun Lim

Lead Design:

Fatma Aslihan Demirtas,

Job Captain:

Deborah Ann Campbell

Design/Technical Design:

Haruko Fukui
Rayme Kuniyuki
Stephen A. Hopkins
Aki Ishida
Chris Rand
Yi Chi Su
Andy Mei

Technical Advisor:

Michael Visscihelli

Gallery Design:
Jean-Michel Wilmotte (Paris)

Project Manager:

Emmanuel Brelot

Job Captain:

Fabian Servagnat


Xavier Turk,


Barbara Clout
Abir Fawaz
Hoon Moreau
Emilie Oliverio
Jean-Luc Perrin
Michael Placidi
Moochul Shin

Structural Engineer:
Leslie E. Robertson Associates

Mechanical Engineer:

Jaros Baum & Bolles

Lighting Designer:

Fisher Marantz Stone

Local Associate:

Qatar Engineer & Associates


Xu Acoustique


Shen Milsom Wilke

Marine Engineering:


Last updated: December 19, 2013

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