2019 Sydney Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

Key Dates

6 March - Launch Event
7 May - Standard Deadline
30 July - Extended Deadline
20 August - Judging
3 September - Rating Closes
5 September - Winners Announced
22 October - Awards Presentation

National Museum of Qatar Gift Shops [DRAFT]

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Image Credit : Tom Ferguson


Project Overview

Inspired by Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), the National Museum of Qatar Gift Shops echoes Koichi Takada’s vision of bringing nature back into architecture, establishing relationships that connect people and nature through design. Using 3D modelling software, the shops are a three-dimensional puzzle, comprising 40,000 individual wooden pieces. Each is unique, fitting only with its corresponding piece and were assembled by hand on site. The intensity of the design and craftsmanship pays homage to Jean Nouvel's desert rose inspired architecture and celebrates the natural Qatari heritage of the desert-scape.

Project Commissioner

Qatar Museums Authority

Project Creator

Koichi Takada Architects

Project Brief

The National Museum of Qatar Gift Shops are an innovative, emotional and culturally rich response to the National Museum of Qatar’s curatorial mission – Heritage meets Innovation.

The National Museum of Qatar Gift Shops’ interiors is characterized by undulating soaring timber walls that were inspired by Dahl Al Misfir, creating a series of cavernous enclosures. The shops are a three-dimensions puzzle, made of 40,000 individual wooden pieces. Each piece, CNC-cut in Italy is entirely unique, fitting only with its exact complimentary piece. The site assembly was an engineering and assembly challenges that were skillfully executed on site by Italian master carpenter, Claudio Devoto and his team of artisans. The 40,000 pieces were individually encoded with a visual number and guideline, assembled by hand, piece by piece without visual fixings. Each piece was glued and fixed by small cleverly conceived brackets to a steel rib-like structure behind the cladding. The steel structure was in itself a remarkable example of engineering.

No one piece of timber could be installed in the incorrect position in this giant jigsaw puzzle. The hand-crafted methodology of assembly playing a key role in the success of the spaces.

Project Innovation/Need

The design for the National Museum of Qatar Gift Shops represents a visually unique example of architecture and retail design that is culturally rooted and sympathetic to the local environment, human experience and place. Designing the interior spaces was an opportunity to create a unique experience for visitors to immerse in Qatar’s cultural heritage; the traditional and historical past, and its development into a modern state as a cultural & innovation hub of the Middle East.

A highly conceptional design, modern technologies enabled the delivery of a truly unique space. Cutting-edge 3D modelling software and a dedicated team of artisans allowed for the concept to be fully realised, achieving the impossible that was at times considered ‘unbuildable’.

The artisan quality of the hand-assembled timber pieces and bespoke nature of the design and construction also celebrates a shift towards a more human-centric design approach, both in the quality of the spaces, but also how visitors engage and interact with space. This was always a strong agenda leading the design direction. As a practise, there was a great responsibility to learn and carefully reflect the local culture and traditions of Qatar within the design so that people visiting the museum could experience this first-hand.

Design Challenge

One of the biggest challenges was dealing with the complexity and monumental scale of the museum design, a 53,000 square-meter agglomeration of interlocking disks inspired by the desert-rose. There were no straight lines; all curved creating very complex spaces internally. Working within these parameters, the shop interiors reproduce the geometries and chromatism of the desert-inspired architecture on a human scale. Even for the lighting concept, we could not apply a conventional sense of lighting design. Our design is consistently organic and theatrical as a result, triggering different emotions every time you visit.


The National Museum of Qatar was also the first national museum in the world to receive both a LEED Gold and a 4-STAR (Global Sustainability Assessment System) sustainability rating. The shop interiors were constructed from European Oak, a conscious decision because of its renewable green credentials that aligned with the sustainable goals of the museum.

This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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