New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada
Interview

"A moment full of magic, drama and contrast"

New National Museum of Qatar

Functionality and storytelling do not have to be contradictory: We spoke to Koichi Takada, the interior and lighting designer for the museum shops and restaurants in the new National Museum of Qatar.

Mr. Takada, you created the interior and lighting design for the retail and dining areas in the National Museum of Qatar: Two cafés and a restaurant, a members‘ lounge, a children‘s book shop and a gift shop. Which meaning do these areas have for a cultural institution?
We saw our interior space within the museum as an opportunity to express a story of Qatar’s cultural and natural heritage. The Shops were designed with undulating organic walls and the lighting effect on the organic walls was inspired by the ‘moon-light’ glow of Qatar’s Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light). As the name says, the light in the cave is magic - we echoed the mysterious effect with ERCO lighting tools. Café 875 was designed with a special up lighting effect that evokes the allure of very rare ‘875’ gold which can be only discovered in the Arab world. We designed four pieces of Qatari ‘medallion’ seating that casts a ring of light on the Nouvel’s architectural ceiling and helps visitors to discover the Café hidden in the mezzanine level of the main lobby. The Desert Rose Café is located under the large architectural disk, and its low ceiling makes you feel like going into a cave. We designed subtle ambient floor lighting among interlocking discs of banquette seating, so that the lighting effect takes away the visitor’s focus from the compressed nature of the space. The idea of lighting is to emulate the soft glow of Qatar’s beautiful dusk light in the desert, offering visitors a place of respite, like being in a desert oasis. The Jiwan Restaurant’s ceiling features are inspired by traditional fishing nets, over four million pearl-like crystal beads are lit and suspended from the ceiling where the beads gently dance with air when guests move around, creating a lighting effect as if the guests were diving under water.

How do the requirements for userfriendly interior and lighting design of the retail and the dining areas differ?
The differences are related to the functional design requirements as well as appealing to the emotions of the viewers. We tried to stimulate our senses because we are all sensitive to light. Lighting enhances textures, colours, shapes and space and most importantly our mood. Lighting is an emotional design tool. During the design process for the museum, for instance, whenever we discussed the mood or emotion of each space, the lighting concept often dictated the design outcome. Our design features in the museum are consistently organic and theatrical as the result. And we love the drama that lighting can create, it helps the museum come alive. In the gift shop for example, we highlight the interior feature with the contrasting lighting drama to achieve the sense of wonder looking up to the “cave of light” - but also present more functional requirements for the eye comfort when looking at merchandise on the shelves with glare-free light. In the restaurants, on the other hand, the lighting has almost no such drama but is more theatrical and the lighting hopefully inspires the mood for good appetite.

What technical requirements should the lighting tools meet?
We are careful not to go overboard with today’s smart technology that can come with so many confusing features. However, dimming is a basic tool and very reliable to find an ideal ambience. Colour temperature is another feature that we are fussy about. Choosing warm or cool ambience can easily change the way people perceive or experience a space. Energy efficiency or low heat emission is also an important criterion while we design and support more energy efficient, “green” lighting.

New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada
New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada

What were the biggest challenges in creating the lighting concept?
Dealing with the complexity of the museum design. When we first received the drawings, it was impossible to understand the space in two dimensions. There were no straight lines; every surface was curved. We had to work almost blind-folded without any physical experience of the spaces. For the lighting concept, we were unable to apply a conventional sense of lighting design. Even the ceilings were curved and tilted, so we could not rely on the traditional method of downlights. Instead, we designed the lighting concept within our design features of canyons, medallions and desert rose inspired seating or ceiling-hung crystal pearls, with simpler application of spot lighting, up-lighting or ambient lighting.

New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada
New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada

The National Museum of Qatar is a cultural brand with great significance for the region. How does your lighting concept enhance this brand?
We created an interior and lighting design that enhances the brand and explores the most innovative building and lighting technologies, fitting for a museum in a country of such growth and change. At the same time, we wanted to respect the history and acknowledge the truly unique heritage of Qatar. Designing the interiors of the National Museum of Qatar 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. While Nouvel’s architecture is a representation of the desert rose formation; a connection to nature, our six parts of the interior designs speak to the narrative of Qatar’s history. The designs are an embodiment of the Qatari history, nature, and the beginnings of the trade, nomadic lifestyle and beautiful natural environment. Through many conversations with the local Qatari people, the design evolved to translate a story into a visual and memorable experience for visitors. And finally, the moment the new lights were turned on was a moment of magic, revealing the truth of the design.

New National Museum of Qatar / Interview with Koichi Takada

About Koichi Takada

Koichi Takada is a Sydney-based architect and studied architecture at City University of New York and Architectural Association in London. Koichi Takada Architects was founded in Sydney in 2008. Now in his mid-forties, Koichi Takada aims to "naturalise" architecture in the urban environment – a design approach he developed after living in cities of high urbanization in Tokyo, New York and London. He engages with the challenges of urban life, devising innovative solutions that integrate the natural environment, its laws, processes and structures. Apart from the interior design at the National Museum of Qatar, Koichi Takada is working on numerous architecture projects in cities such as Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

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