Art Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek: Kuwait National Museum

In May 1960, an international competition was held for the architectural project for the Kuwait National Museum which would be located in the cultural district of the 1952 Master Plan of Kuwait. The competition was won by French architect Michel Écochard and the museum was finally opened in 1983 where it stayed open up until the 1990 invasion. The museum was badly damaged during the war and most of the buildings remained closed (some photos of the destruction here). There were talks at one point of demolishing the museum and building a new one but thankfully in 2014, it was decided to save the existing museum by restoring it.

The restoration project is now complete and the museum is currently in the process of getting ready to reopen. I got invited to a sneak peek of the museum, something that I’ve been wanting for years. I was lucky enough to visit the museum back in the 80s, and although I don’t remember much of it, I do appreciate the fact that they decided to restore the landmark building instead of demolishing it as is the case most of the time.

The Kuwait National Museum is part of the Qibla Cultural District (Google Maps) which includes the Sadu House, the National Library, and Al-Qibla School for Girls Education. The main museum complex comprises of four buildings each housing a different part of Kuwait’s history:

Building 1 – Archeology of Kuwait
Building 2 – Ethnographic History of Kuwait
Building 3 – Ancient East
Building 4 – Ancient East

Buildings 1 and 2 are already open while buildings 3 and 4 are the ones heavily damaged during the war and the ones I got to tour. Buildings 3 and 4 are the largest buildings and will cover art in the Ancient East starting in the 3rd millennium BC going through Arabia before Islam, then the beginning of Islam, followed by the full chronology of Islamic Art.

All four buildings are connected by closed bridges. This means once you enter a building you can navigate the whole museum without stepping outside making it very convenient during the hot summer months.

Minor changes were made to the structure of the buildings, large semi-opaque windows were installed to bring in more daylight, and some minor new stairs and walkways were added due to updated fire safety requirements. All the work looked very tasteful and well-executed although I do wish they had kept the original pink brick facade.

There is also a planetarium outside the museum which you’ve most likely seen driving by on the Gulf Road since it’s the building closest to the road and its round spherical shape is hard to miss.

The planetarium is also in the final stages of renovation and will be reopening soon.

As I mentioned early on in the post, buildings3 and 4 of the museum are currently in the process of getting ready to reopen. They’re expecting that would happen in two years’ time, around 2024. In the meantime, buildings 1 and 2 are open and you can visit those now, here is my previous post about them. Link

17 replies on “Sneak Peek: Kuwait National Museum”

Simply brilliant! 👌 And better late than never.

Hope they are able to upgrade the planetarium into a world class facility. I remember how many lazy Friday mornings would be spent at the National Museum in one of its many halls and galleries gawking at the famed Sabah collection of jewels and fabled treasures.
Since this is now a traveling collection on loan to various museums and galleries across the world it is to be hoped that other equally interesting collections from the Metropolitan Museum and the Louvre in Paris can also make it i.e. the National Museum their temporary home in Kwt.

From what I remember a few years ago it was opened and we were allowed to visit the various buildings. I remember the freezing ac of the planetarium and walking on the ancient ship there.

I didn’t know it was closed for renovation. Cool.

yeah the planetarium was open, but they then closed it to renovate the projection system I think. From what I saw I think there will be 3D mapping now.

I miss the Pink too. It lent more swag to it . There was almost a hint of the Pink City (Jaipur) right here in K-town. Somehow it brought out the Mughal vibes better.

Does anyone remember the one time the National Museum played host to a University of Ontario Science fair. It was such joy & fun.

And the ship building yard out in the back or facing the Gulf street. Ask them for photos of the wooden dhows too. The dhows were / are an integral part of the National Museum. I used to quite like the museum of natural history in Mirqab. Wonder what happened to all the exhibits there ?

Hello Mark,

My name is Allison Hu from the Exploratorium. We are a non-profit science center in San Francisco. We are working on a project in Kuwait with The Science Centre Kuwait promoting STEM, and are highlighting a number of individuals.

We found this image of the Kuwait National Museum on the TWOFORTYEIGHTAM website from this post and we’d like to request permission to use it for our project.

You would be cited in the image credit. Please let me know if you have any questions, you can contact me at [email protected].

Thank you,

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