Museam of Islamic Art

New York Times article: […]The building seems austere by the standards of the flashy attention-grabbing forms that we have come to associate with Persian Gulf cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Designed by I. M. Pei, 91, who has described it as his last major cultural building, it recalls a time when architectural expression was both more earnest and more optimistic, and the rift between modernity and tradition had yet to reach full pitch.

The museum, which houses manuscripts, textiles, ceramics and other works mostly assembled over the last 20 years, has emerged as one of the world’s most encyclopedic collections of Islamic art. The origins of its artifacts range from Spain to Egypt to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and Central Asia. (Among the exquisite works on view at the opening were a bronze Andalusian fountainhead in the form of a doe with a heart-shaped mouth, and an ornate spherical brass plate from Persia or Mesopotamia used to measure the position of the stars. Both date from the 10th century.)

Taking his cue from the diversity of the collections, Mr. Pei sought to create a structure that would embody the “essence of Islamic architecture. […] The resulting structure is a powerful Cubist composition of square and octagonal blocks stacked atop one another and culminating in a central tower. An esplanade of giant palm trees leads to the island. Inside the museum, 41,000 square feet of galleries are organized around a towering atrium capped by a dome, with a narrow beam of light descending from its central oculus.

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