Transforming historic places into museum spaces
The Msheireb Museums project is part of a unique development that aims to regenerate the heart of the city of Doha.
Forming the core of the new cultural quarter, these four houses – which date back to the early 1900s – were preserved, restored and converted into museum and exhibition spaces of international standard, providing a beautiful new home for the memories and voices of Qatari history.
In order to accommodate museum environments of an international standard, the historic courtyard houses needed to be extensively remodelled and transformed. The challenge faced by our engineers involved meeting the exacting requirements set out in the brief, in an environmentally sustainable way, without compromising the historic character of the buildings.
Careful and detailed research into the historic construction of these buildings has formed the basis of the restoration. It has been possible to integrate the new with the old by developing innovative solutions using floor voids and service beams to provide the technical infrastructure for a contemporary gallery, yet allowing the original interiors of the houses to be retained.
Visitors to the Msheireb Museums are able to learn about local history and Qatari culture in a traditional, yet modern environment that will become an important cultural destination for the city.
Nowhere in this project was flexible use of floor space more essential than in the realisation of the large temporary exhibition gallery that is located in the basement of one of the houses. Our engineers had to develop structural and building service strategies that could be adapted to suit a variety of requirements, yet which also caused as little impact as possible on the original features of the building.
We designed a floor with a high load capacity that is able to withstand the weight of large, heavy objects, and mapped out a reinforced route through the museum to allow these exhibits to be transported safely to and from the gallery. Our team also installed a high capacity lift to further aid the movement of precious cultural treasures.
As well as delivering this sturdy floor, our engineers made sure the ceiling was capable of bearing high loads so that exhibits and additional lighting could be suspended from it as required. Where suspension points coincided with acoustic absorption locations, we cast in fixing channels to help speed up the process of hanging objects during exhibition set up.
To ensure the internal environment of the gallery meets the precise conditions required for preserving historic artwork and artefacts, and keeps visitors cool in the extreme Qatari climate, our engineers developed a clever air conditioning system that still allows flexible use of the space. Trenches below the floor draw cool air up from the ground, which enters the room through a perimeter grille in the floor. In the exposed ceiling, further air conditioning systems are located between the primary beams, allowing for the gallery to be subdivided as required while still maintaining the carefully controlled conditions throughout.
Overhead multi-service beams (MSBs) provide both structural support and invisible building services provision, containing plug in lighting and audio options for exhibitions, as well as essential fire alarm systems and sprinklers. This solution not only preserved the visual integrity of the building’s historic features, but again freed up interior space and provided flexible options to suit a variety of fit out requirements.
This temporary exhibition gallery is just one area of an outstanding restoration project that also includes visitor facilities, restaurants and retail amenities of the highest contemporary standard. Now complete, these beautifully restored buildings invite visitors in from across the world to experience a distinct chapter of Qatari history.
Building Awards: International project of the year