The Art Mill International Design Competition was commissioned for one of the largest and most ambitious cultural complexes in the world. Committed to artistic and architectural exploration, Qatar has established its capital Doha as a global art destination. Its strategic national plan values contemporary art and culture as a powerful force, inspiring communities and stimulating a knowledge-based economy.
The site for the Art Mill is one of the most valuable in Doha, extending into Doha Bay with the Arabian Sea on three sides. Presently occupied by Qatar Flour Mills, the site adjoins the park around I.M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art and is close to key landmarks including the Corniche and Jean Nouvel’s forthcoming National Museum of Qatar. The finished Art Mill site will comprise one million square feet.
The competition was conceived as a highly-focused process, which was structured to attract a wide field of emerging and seasoned designers. Stage one was devised to reduce the burden of design work and risk for architects, whilst directing them to analyse and explain their suitability for the project.
The international architectural community responded with enthusiasm – MRC received 489 entries from 56 countries; within the overall list was a dazzling roll-call of leading studios.
Twenty-six firms from five continents were chosen to progress to the second stage of the competition – where teams produced masterplan proposals for the site – with both celebrated and emerging architects featured in the selection.
Such was the quality of the second stage submissions that the jury expanded the shortlist from five to eight. Following further briefing, the teams developed more detailed concept designs for the third stage of the competition.
The jury met to assess these in New York in Autumn 2016 and extended the competition to allow a fourth stage, comprising a design charrette.
After a final presentation and interview, the Chile-based practice ELEMENTAL was announced as the winner in May 2017, with Adam Khan Architects the runner-up. The winning concept design was praised by the international jury as ‘a serene artwork, where the structure is the architecture’. The team’s environmental strategy was also praised for its understanding of the local climate.
Professor Harry Gugger, special Adviser to Qatar Museums and competition juror, said:
‘The competition reached out to some of the most extraordinary talents working in architecture today and ELEMENTAL, known for their social buildings, won in brilliant fashion, being both inventive and indefatigable. ELEMENTAL’s wonderful design proves once again that competitions get the best out of architectural practices.’