architect: Elemental

location: Doha, Qatar

The Art Mill International Design Competition, a global search to find an outstanding team to design one of the world’s leading art galleries in Doha, was won by Chile-based practice, Elemental, whose design was described by the jury as ‘a serene artwork, where the structure is the architecture’. Elemental is led by Alejandro Aravena, the 2016 Pritzker Prize Laureate, and is supported by climate engineers, Transsolar; structural engineers, Schlaich Bergermann; and global design consultants, Stantec. Gifted with one of the most spectacular and historic sites in the centre of Doha, the Art Mill will be pre-eminent in Doha’s waterfront ensemble of institutions dedicated to art and is expected to become one of the world’s leading cultural centres. Elemental’s winning concept took as its inspiration the rhythmic monumental grain silos that are the industrial legacy of the original Flour Mills on the site, which have produced bread for the State since the 1980s. However, in a creative riff the team added to the strict geometry of retained silos a looser grouping of new silos that will act as cooling chimneys circulating air through the site that extends spectacularly on three sides into Doha Bay. Committed to artistic and architectural exploration, Qatar has established its capital Doha as a global art destination. Qatar’s strategic national plan values contemporary art and culture as a powerful force, inspiring communities and stimulating a knowledge-based economy. The new institution will complete Doha’s acclaimed sequence of museums devoted to art, including notably, I.M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art, and Jean Nouvel’s forthcoming National Museum of Qatar. As much a bridge between cultures as a treasure house, the Art Mill aims to inspire new insights, encourage receptivity, widen artistic sensibilities, and promote understanding.

Elemental Art Mill Concept Design 2 copyright: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Elemental

Doha is already home to some of the world’s most inventive and creative buildings, with more due for completion in time for the World Cup celebrations in 2022. The proposed site for the Art Mill was originally a key node within the Arabian Gulf port, essential for the import of grain. It is presently occupied by Qatar Flour Mills, which sits to the east of Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). The site has a distinctive open aspect with three sides adjoining Doha Bay, and the other linking the city. The mill operation will now move to purpose-built new facilities. The industrial process of milling has left a fascinating legacy in the layout and spaces of the existing buildings on the site, notably voluminous spaces and a rhythmic, patterned promenade of vertical silos. Some of the Flour Mills buildings possess an authentic monumentality in terms of positioning, scale and noble forms. Re-using and adapting these structures will be integral to the project. The site area is circa 83,500m²/898,787 sq. ft. It is anticipated that extensive outside space will be integrated with the design, offering opportunities for cross-programming and public engagement as well as creating a beautiful and sustainable setting.

While predominantly comprising gallery and exhibition space, the museum’s brief also includes extensive education, conference and event space, as well as state-of-the-art conservation and storage to match the diversity of the collection. There will also be facilities to support the community and provide amenities for visiting families. With its reinvention as a place generating cultural rather than physical sustenance, the site is well placed for transport and social amenities, supplying the missing jigsaw-piece to complete the public realm around a key civic quarter. Adjoining and linked to MIA park, and a few minutes’ walk from Doha’s famous Corniche, the site offers panoramic views across the bay to the skyline of the financial district. The Art Mill will be dynamic, sustainable, contemporary and true to its social and cultural responsibilities. It will also acknowledge the heritage and setting of a historic site at the heart of the port and city. The Art Mill will celebrate imagination and creativity.

typology: concorso di progettazione a partecipazione aperta
promoter: Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants
registration: 26 June 2015
results: 15 May 2017

jury members:
Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani
Hassan Rashid Al-Derham
Harry Gugger
Akel I. Kahera
John Leighton
Jasper Morrison
Hiroshi Sugimoto
Chris Wise

finalist: Adam Khan Architects
finalist: Atelier Bow-Wow
finalist: EAA Emre Arolat Architecture
finalist: junya.ishigami + associates
finalist: Mangado & Asociados
finalist: Renzo Piano Building Workshop