International design competition launched for new Art Mill in Qatar

An international design competition has been set up to transform a series of huge flour mills along Doha’s waterfront into new art galleries

The prominent waterfront site is at the heart of Doha’s cultural quarter and will link the new gallery with the existing Museum of Islamic Art designed by I M Pei and the forthcoming National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel. Set up by Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants, the design competition seeks to identify emerging talent and welcomes practising architects with at least seven years’ experience post final qualification.

The new galleries will occupy approximately one million square foot, currently housing the Qatar Flour Mills, the operation of which will now move to purpose-built new facilities. The existing buildings range from storage to processing and warehouse facilities, mostly with high ceilings and large spans. The Art Mill initiative presents a new model for international, open competitions and is devised to reduce the burden of design work (and risk) for architects at stage one, while directing them to analyse and explain their suitability for the project.

However, once the long-list of 20 architects is selected, these competitors will be asked to envision strategies for the site and its links to the city. From the best of these analyses, a shortlist of five architects will be given further briefing and progress onto more detailed concept designs for the conversion and extension of the Flour Mills’ structures.

Malcolm Reading, competition organiser and chairman of Malcolm Reading Consultants said the competition would be a life-changing opportunity for an architect dedicated to excellence. “The Flour Mills buildings have an authentic monumentality with their positioning, scale and noble forms,” he said. “The industrial process of milling grain has left a fascinating legacy in the layout and spaces of the existing buildings on the site, notably high ceiling spaces and a rhythmic, patterned promenade of vertical silos.”

MRC’s  recent work includes two global cultural design competitions currently attracting attention, the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s ‘Olympicopolis’ design competition in London, which generated a much-admired shortlist.

Qatar Museums was established in 2005 to connect the museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites in the Gulf state, with the impressive Museum of Islamic Art opening in 2008 followed by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in 2010 and now has a total of seven cultural organisations under its umbrella with a new National Museum under construction and the Art Mill to be the latest additions.

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Museums, said:  “This new museum will represent a major milestone in the urban development of Doha, connecting a number of our most cherished cultural and heritage sites.”

Further details of the project and how to enter the design competition plus future updates will be available on the dedicated competition microsite.