National Museum of Oman
In 2007, alongside Jasper Jacob Associates, we were commissioned to design a 13,700m2 museum to be built in the heart of Old Muscat. The museum showcases the cultural heritage of Oman from prehistoric times to the present day.
The design of the galleries and public circulation synthesises contemporary and traditional Omani vocabularies. The palette of materials includes local limestone flooring, hardwood ceilings with traditional decorative carved elements, perforated mashrabiyah screens in cast aluminium, and polished plaster feature walls to evoke the saroj stucco commonly used in traditional buildings.
The storyline acted as a major generator for the planning and volumetric form of the building. A series of enfilades through the galleries provide opportunities for long vistas to key objects as well as an easy means of orientation for the visitor.
A double-height reception hall leads on to a central orientation space, ‘The Land and the People’, around which the galleries are arrayed. The design is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Omani courtyard with surrounding riwaqs (long narrow passages) on each level. The ground floor galleries showcase maritime heritage, arms and armour, the built environment and architecture, agriculture and irrigation systems, and currency.
How we approached the project
The vertical circulation is in a drum containing a ‘timeline’ concept displayed on a helical stair, surrounding a panoramic lift. Upstairs, a sequence of six galleries presents Oman’s cultural heritage with a chronological approach.
A further gallery exemplifies Intangible Heritage such as music, dance, cuisine, and storytelling, and the Collections Gallery has the reference collection in open storage together with handling areas and digital database terminals.
There is a 50-seat introductory AV theatre, 450m2 of temporary exhibition galleries, a gift shop, a corporate hospitality suite, a learning centre, and comprehensive back-of house facilities for collections management including conservation and restoration studios and collection storage. The Learning Centre has its own entrance, and on the ground floor, two 30-seat dedicated teaching spaces for school groups.
Above, there is an 80-seat lecture theatre together with a multi-purpose space that can be used for break-out refreshments, small exhibitions and presentations, or subdivided into two separate seminar rooms.
Client: Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman
Value: £40m (building and exhibition)
Status: Completed 2016