Qatar Museums has opened its new creative hub, Liwan Design Studios and Labs, dedicated to supporting and elevating the local design community. Central to Qatar’s booming creativity and rich heritage is the design and arts society within the country. Liwan’s aim is a twofer: It seeks to aid projects of the art community by granting access to connections, and also support Qatar Museums’ goal of building a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure.
“Like all that we do at Qatar Museums, Liwan has one foot in the past, rooted in our cultural history, and the other in the future, elevating our nation and its people to even higher levels,” says Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums. “I am confident that great things will emerge from Liwan and I know that the creativity that originates here will contribute greatly to Qatar’s creative economy for generations to come.”
Liwan is located in the heart of Msheireb Downtown, Doha’s flourishing design district. The building of the design studio is also one of Doha’s most breathtaking mid-century designs that was reimagined in early 2019 by efforts of conservation in Qatar. Hosted by the Msheireb Art Centre, a set of studios committed to restoring arts within the state, Liwan’s building pays homage to Qatar’s social and architectural history.
Liwan—meaning graceful courtyards in Arabic—is led by Qatari designer and director Aisha Bint Nasser Al Sowaidi who reveals that when she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCU-Q) with a Master’s in Fine Arts, she came to the realization that Qatar was in need of a creative space for arts. “I realized that without the scaffolding of an educational institution, it was hard to find a fulfilling artistic community and space to experiment,” she states. “Qatar Museums has met that need with Liwan, an institution that is far more than a building with design infrastructure. It is a home for the community, where emerging designers can feel welcome, connect with others in their field, and elevate their work.”
The design studio provides a space for designers to join as members and use the area as a means for active engagement through its facilities. Labs for pottery, leatherwork, digital photography, and prototyping, as well as private and shared studios for their work are some of the space’s offerings. Liwan will also feature an updated library open to the public and a cafe. The library will hold monthly panel discussions named Kotob Zaman, Arabic for “books from the past.” The Journal by Liwan will act as an online library of sorts whereby an online collection of essays, articles, book and exhibition reviews, and visuals will be presented for use.
Not only will Liwan give back to its local creative circle by advancing their access to resources, but it will also offer a schedule of public programs through the Liwania series that directs focus towards raising awareness of local and global design thinking and practices. From heritage tours to workshops, exhibitions, and film screenings, the programming opens doors to opportunities.