If you happen to be driving through the desert near Doha, Qatar and notice an unusual number of Bentleys and Ferraris parked in front of a sand dune, you may find you're actually looking at the Museum of Modern Arab Art, a two-level, air-conditioned 350,000-square-foot facility celebrating over 10,000 works of art.
The museum, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly in NYC, will be completed by 2011, and will show off a collection of 5,000 paintings, 700 antiques, sculptures, metalwork and ceramics, a calligraphy section—not fancy party invitations, mind you, but elaborately ornate murals and manuscripts ranging from the early Qur'anic period to modern times—and other areas will include photography and applied arts. It may not surprise you to know that this collection is actually entirely owned by one dude, Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohammed Al-Thani, which he started amassing 10 short years ago. If I'm reading this correctly, an engineering firm for the project reports that the building's surface will be a canvas-like material, and that the whole thing was a bitch to air condition, given the combination of new materials, desert climate and priceless humidity-sensitive artworks. Speaking of "priceless," I can't find a dollar-figure for the project itself, but it suffices to say this will be the most expensive sand dune this side of Arrakis. It may not be the most expensive modern arab art museum, however. A Dutch architect called Ben van Berkel is concocting a Star Trek-esque building for the Museum of Middle East Modern Art, to be built on the banks of the Dubai Creek. Me, I'll take the Frank Herbert over the Gene Roddenberry any day of the week. Check out more pics and discussion at the site source. [Dezeen]