Standing outside Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art, in Doha, watching the sun rise over the Persian Gulf, you’re reminded of Mies van der Rohe’s dictum: ‘less is more’. Van der Rohe was a hero of the man who made this building, and I.M. Pei’s new museum sums up that minimalist rule of thumb. Doha’s modern skyline is a panorama of skyscrapers, but they all look trite and transient beside this discreet masterpiece. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art is only a few years old, but it feels as if it’s stood here for a century. It’s part of the landscape, the way great architecture ought to be. Sometimes, a single building can sum up an entire époque. Qatar is now, per capita, the richest country in the world (displacing Luxemburg) and its Museum of Islamic Art encapsulates its cultural ambitions. In this sleek new citadel on Doha’s waterfront, you can feel the earth’s axis start to tilt, as the balance of power shifts from West to East. Most architects dream in vain of creating one such iconic building. For I.M. Pei it’s become a habit. He did it in Paris. He did it in Berlin. And now he’s done it here.
more from William Cook at The Spectator here.