Expat Eyes

This blog contains the photographs, observations and reflections of Rena Diana, an educator and writer, during extended stays in the Arabian Gulf, China, and Mongolia.

An Exalted Space

“If one could find the heart of Islamic architecture, might it not lie in the desert, severe and simple in its design, where sunlight brings forms to life?”

I.M. Pei, Architect
Museum of Islamic Art, Philip Jodidio


Journal Entry: March 4, 2011: “The magnificent Museum of Islamic Art on the corniche of Doha, overlooking the Arabian Gulf, inspires in me an appreciation of simplicity, clarity, and elegance. There is a lean, taut, pristine beauty to the building, both inside and out, balanced by a tranquility- a spaciousness- infused by a sense of wonder, a spirit of grace. When I approach this museum and enter it, I am overcome by reverence. My heart is still. My mind is at ease yet fully engaged, alert, awake. It is like entering a hushed holy space, a  prism, a shaft of iridescence- suspended in time. In every direction there are splendid, surprising lines and angles. The multiple intertwined triangles and interlaced circles in the central staircase, floating walkways, window panes, and light fixtures create a dazzling constellation of shapes, many of which are actually reflections and shadows, rather than something you can touch, creating an ambiance of mystery and magic.  The cityscape across the harbor beyond the arched windows seems incorporated into the scene, part of the artwork – as do the terrace fountains and the dhows off the pier. The neutral tones enhance the linear elements, the bold structural compositions. The play of natural light creates constantly shifting patterns, which underscores the ephemeral intricacy of the overall effect.  The designs are different, depending on the time of day. The Museum of Islamic Art beckons me to stop, observe, digest, and look again. As I turn around to take it all in, I am twirling inside a kaleidoscope. How appropriate that the course in illustrated journaling I am taking here is called Sacred Pages. The word to describe how I feel in this place is exhilarated…”

I.M. Pei, Chinese architect born in Canton in 1917, took several years to decide upon a signature design statement for this museum, which he assumed would be his last great contribution to world architecture. He finally decided upon the mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo, built from 876-879, inspired by its “austerity and simplicity,” its distinctive angular façade.

Enjoy the gallery of photographs below. You can click on any single photo to enlarge it.

“It is the light of the desert that transforms the architecture into a play of light and shadow.”
I.M. Pei

Next Post: Five Star Stables

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3 thoughts on “An Exalted Space

  1. I love this building!

  2. John Sasser on said:

    Lovely museum. Gave me a new appreciation of Islamic art.

  3. Bob Bown on said:

    Continuing to enjoy your exploits. Bob Bown

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