Qatar: Old palace restoration project complete

The old palace before restoration work began three years ago
The old palace before restoration work began. The palace was originally built in the early 1900s

Qatar Museums has announced that the historic palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani, the father of modern Qatar, has been successful restored to its former glory.

The Old Palace, which has taken a total of three years to restore, will sit at the centre of the new National Museum of Qatar, designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel. Honouring the traditions of the past whilst embracing the future, the newly restored Palace will be a fitting central exhibit within the National Museum complex when it opens.

One of Doha’s most recognisable landmarks, the building serves as a monument to an historic way of life in Qatar. Restored and refurbished numerous times since it was built, the texture and fabric of the building itself tells a rich story about Qatar’s progress and development over the past 100 years.

The building is unique in its historical significance. Originally built during the early 20th century by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohamed Al-Thani, the Palace has served as both a family residence and the seat of government. In 1975, the former National Museum of Qatar also opened its doors in the restored palace, featuring a number of artefacts and exhibits celebrating the country’s history, heritage, culture and environment. In 1980 the building won the Aga Khan award for restoration and rehabilitation of Islamic architecture.

Numerous architectural features have been incorporated into the original design since the 1970s and provide important insights and lessons into the development of Qatari craftsmanship. Several additional elements have been added during this time to improve the structural integrity of the building overall.

The project was conceived and designed by Qatar Museums as a contemporary restoration project, rather than a reconstruction. To fulfil this ambitious brief, Qatar Museums engaged Ziegert | Roswag | Seiler Architekten Ingenieure, a specialist practice that focuses on the development of sustainable building solutions using natural building materials. All work was closely supervised and managed by specialists on-site and conducted in close collaboration with Qatar Museums throughout.

The project required detailed and specialised knowledge of the historic building techniques and materials used in the construction of the Palace and a clear commitment to strengthen and develop local construction practices through the restoration process.

The restored palace lies at what will eventually be the heart of Qatar's Museums complex
The restored palace lies at what will be the heart of Qatar’s Museums complex

A team of local artisans was trained over the course of the restoration and worked closely with the project team. Specially developed training sessions included in-depth workshops on diverse subjects ranging from wood treatment, the restoration of ornaments and painted ceilings through to treatment of historic plaster surfaces.

Commenting on the announcement, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums Board of Trustees, said: “I’m immensely proud of all that has been achieved in restoring the Palace so faithfully. This building is an incredible monument to our history and traditions whilst also highlighting our country’s rapid progress and development. When completed, the futuristic, iconic, world-class design of the National Museum will perfectly complement the Palace.”



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