National Museum of Qatar Playgrounds

APPROACH

Our design delivered a playground that provided a destination in The National Museum of Qatar grounds, valued as place for refuge, retreat, education and play. The cultural and learning opportunities extend beyond the Museum to deliver an interactive and fun place, complementing the captivating internal galleries in delivering history, science and storytelling.

The playground encourages visitors to learn more about the local history and culture of Qatar in a fun, engaging, sensory and emotional way. The two interrelated playgrounds- The Cave of Wonders inspired by local Dahl or cave structures, and The Adventure Ship reminiscent of traditional boats and trade. The materials used in the playground highlight the authentic form and texture of the original cultural objects and provide a tactile interaction with the space creating intrigue and imagination as to what life may have been like living in the past.

The playgrounds are interpretive exhibitions, differing from a general Museum space where most of the historic artefacts or displays are behind glass cabinets or secure barriers, and provide visitors with an opportunity to be intrigued and curious – leaving the Museum with a strong desire to visit again, as well as the inclination to explore a real Dahl in the desert or to see a traditional Dhow in the bay outside the Museum of Islamic Art.

THE CAVE OF WONDERS

The Cave of Wonders is part geological wonderland and part historical discovery playground. The theme of the Dahl playground creates a strong connection with internal Gallery 1 and 2 of the National Museum of Qatar, mainly focusing on Qatar’s geology and natural environment. The design team responded to the history of the natural Dahl by interpreting and transplanting the texture, structure, dark, and cool subterranean world of an existing Dahl onto the Museum grounds.

Visitors young and old can discover fossils, geckos (large and small), footprints, petroglyph carvings, interpretation text, bats roosting in the cave ceiling, and interact with projection play, traditional artefacts, or squeeze through a rock maze. The whole experience is brought to life through choreographed lighting and audio scenography such as the flicker of bats overhead, the hoot of a hidden owl above and the soft glow of phosphorescent glow-rocks.

THE ADVENTURE SHIP

The Adventure Ship playground continues the stories of internal galleries 4 and 6 of the Museum as a detailed and true recreation of an original Dhow at full scale, exploring the people and life on the coast of Qatar. From one view a complete section of the ship is afloat at a jetty, but upon further enquiry a shipwreck which captures and showcases the ship’s internal structure is revealed. A detailed approach using a 3d scans of an existing Dhow allowed the design team to replicate fine details, colours and building techniques into the finished playground – extending the realism of the playground and connection these ships have with the cultural history of Qatar.

Visitors can discover a range of trade and pearling related stories through play elements such as an interactive pearl game, glowing treasure chests, cargo boxes filled with trade goods, a trade shelf filled with ceramic and bronze goods, a misting cannon, and a cooling water-feature The ship features a variety of climbing areas aimed at visitors of different abilities – further encouraging inter-generational play. These include climbing nets, spinning mouse wheel, cubby spaces and climbing walls where visitors young and old can engage in play together.

INNOVATION

Sustainability Initiatives were integrated where there was limited local resources or understanding of its use, and we ensured third party certification throughout. This included extensive research and development of materials, with priority given for their durability and safety compliance.

Unique scenographic designs created immersive experiences involving the synchronized programming of lighting, custom produced audio, microclimate systems, water features and access systems. An example of this is the testing and iterative process that resolved the Sail Design, its fabrication and how the process developed new ideas to help reinforce fabrics to balance wind load, maximize material strength and achieve an aesthetic result that would last.  The climate of Qatar made optimizing the efficiency of a Radiant cooling system paramount and led to an integrated system in an organic shaped non-standard wall. Adibiatic Mist Fan are efficient for use in the Middle East, and suitable in playgrounds for their safety and compliance.  At every turn our team looked to embed sustainability into the design while ensuring long lasting, and aesthetically please end use solutions.

Project location: Doha, Qatar

Design year: 2016

Year Built: 2020

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