The first phase of a new art center that will replace the former Civil Defense headquarters in Wadi Al Sail is expected to open in November, officials from the Qatar Museums Authority have said.
During a meeting with journalists yesterday, organizers offered more details about the transformation of the 30-year-old building into the Doha Fire Station.
QMA had previously announced the conversion of the building to Doha News in January, saying it expected to host an Artists in Residence Program by offering studio space, supply shops and workshops to local artists. That phase is set for completion this year.
The second phase, which would include nearby buildings with cafes, restaurants, bookshops and cinematheques, will be completed sometime next year, officials said.
Civil Defense left the building when its state-of-the-art headquarters in Wadi Al Sail opened in December 2012. For the last several months, the now-empty facility appeared to be in the process of being dismantled.
Speaking to Doha News, Qatari architect Ibrahim Al Jaidah, who is overseeing the renovations, said the goal of the project was to preserve some of the nation’s history while appealing to the community.
“What you see now and refer to as dismantling is a temporary measure of the repairing the facade. It will be redone, fixed, pieces that are missing are going to be replaced, and then it will go back into originally what it was. The challenge here is to maintain the identity of the building so that people can visit.”
He added that the government is also looking to preserve and restore other landmarks around Qatar, including the Emiri Diwan, the nearby clock tower and the Post Office.
Artists in residence
Once the first phase is completed, local artists can apply to a nine-month residency program that would initially be open only to residents of Qatar, and then later to regional artists.
Some 20 residencies are available. Each artist accepted into the program is entitled to one of the building’s 24 studios, and would have 24/7 access. Each June, a “Garage gallery” will feature an exhibition to showcase productions by the artists.
Hala Al Khalifa, who will manage the program, said that whatever was created during the residency would be owned by the artists.
QMA also unveiled the logo for the Fire Station yesterday:
— Qatar Museums (@Qatar_Museums) March 5, 2014
Speaking to Doha News, Jean Paul Engle, Director of Public Art Programs at QMA, said his team searched for a while to find the perfect building to host its residency program.
“We often work for years on projects and things are works in progress, and so we looked around for a long time and then this building came around.”
He added that they also chose the former Civil Defense headquarters because of its large garage, “which is very preferred for the gallery space.”
The building, which was built in 1982, was used for 30 years before being turned over to QMA in 2012 for preservation and conservation.
Looking forward, panelists also mentioned that schools in Mushereib have agreed to close for renovation in cooperation with the QMA, for similar art projects.
Khalifa Al Obaidly, a Qatari artist who was involved in converting an old all-girls school at the heart of Doha into an art center, will work on this project as part of a Qatari heritage program.