Treasure island

25 April 2008

With construction of the Museum of Islamic Art’s shell complete all interior materials must now

With construction of the Museum of Islamic Art’s shell complete all interior materials must now

Inspired by Cairo’s Ahmad ibn Tulun Mosque, Doha’s new Museum of Islamic Art (MOIA) incorporates many classical motifs and geometrical designs found in Islamic architecture and art.

“These include the use of water to create sound and reflections, the symmetry of the building and the shape of its surroundings, such as the peninsular with its parks,” said Hermann J. Boyng, resident engineer at Hyder Consulting.

Hyder, said Mr Boyng, is responsible for the supervision of structural, architectural and MEP services as well as the fit-out. The museum building’s design is by I. M. Pei, with architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte designing the interior. The two worked together previously on the extension to the Louvre, Paris, France.

Construction packages

The five-storey museum includes, two levels of galleries, a library, an auditorium, administrative areas and a five-level atrium. When complete, later this year, the building will be an island that appears to “float” over the waters of the Arabian Gulf, according to Mr Boyng. A concrete structure, it is clad in 63300 m2 of marble, granite and limestone, inside and out.

Turner Construction - International is the project and construction manager at MOIA. It broke ground in November 2003, and, according to Turner’s country manager Oliver Roche, construction is divided into six packages in an effort to “expediate the building timetable”.

Package 1, completed in January 2004 by local contractor Al-Huda, included enabling works and demolition of previous structures on the site. Package 2 was for the foundation and reclamation works. Package 3, the largest of the six, is the construction from the basement slab up, which includes the interior and exterior cladding. It also included a 147 m long pre-cast concrete seawall.

Package 4, by the Mivan Depa Contracting joint venture (JV), is the building’s internal fit out. Package 5 is the loose furniture and signage, handled by Italy’s Cassina.

Package 6 - park and landscaping - has been divided into three phases, A, B and C, again to speed up design and construction, according to Mr Roche. It included moving 270000 m3 of fill material. Al-Huda handled Phase A, while Turkish contractor Baytur is responsible for Phases B and C.

Foundation and reclamation works

Construction of Package 2, by the Midmac-Six Construct JV, established the perimeter of the MOIA’s 14000 m2 footprint, on which the main structure was built. This was done with 514 m of 0.5 m thick, 15 m deep sheet piling. Within this over 900, 0.75 to 1 m diameter auger bored piles were driven to a depth of 20 m.

Above this 130 pile caps were installed for the main building, with 78 needed for the main pedestrian ramp. This was followed by a 1 m thick, 11500 m3 pressure slab.

“The sheet piles don’t take any structural load, the cast in place auger piles do that. However, knocking in pre-cast concrete piles was one of the most difficult parts of the project.

“When beating precast piles into the ground with a pile driver it’s virtually impossible not to damage some. The learning curve was certainly longer than we expected,” said Mr Roche.

Around this perimeter the JV created a 34000 m2 temporary work platform. Progressing at the same time as the perimeter works, this needed 215000 m3 of rubble; granular fill and armour stone, and took just 100 days to complete. During iC’s visit to the site in November this temporary platform was in the process of being dismantled.

“All the fill material needed to create the island was imported. We had to do this because it was impossible to get a dredger in close enough to the shoreline. Local quarries supplied all the stone, which was mostly limestone,” said Mr Roche.

Main building

While construction of the MOIA’s perimeter and foundation presented some interesting problems, construction of the main building and the atrium in particular, by Baytur, also required some lateral thinking.

“The most outstanding feature of construction is manifested in the supporting structure for the atrium’s dome, which consists of flap walls starting from levels three and five to the top of the atrium’s roof,” said Hyder’s Mr Boyng.

The four columns supporting the dome are composite sections of structural steel and concrete up to the start of the flap walls. A post tensioning concrete system was applied to concrete coffer dome slabs at the atrium’s third and fifth floor slabs, said Mr Boyng.

“The fifth floor slab is further supported and hung by two, 100 mm diameter, 12 m long, vertical steel rods, and yielded considerable stresses connected to the seventh floor roof slab. In addition, the four composite columns are linked to the atrium floor slabs at floors three and five through structural steel joints at the start of the walls, to transfer part of the flap wall’s loads to the floor slabs. These slabs were further reinforced by applying the post tensioning forces to the concrete to enhance its capability of carrying the transferred loads,” added Mr Boyng.

According to Mr Roche construction of the dome, which incorporates a 2 m wide oculus (a round, central opening) as the main light source, also presented several interesting conundrums.

It is clad in stainless steel, inside and out, over a steel skeleton, which was supplied by Schmidlin.

“Schmidlin went bankrupt during the supply and Baytur had to go out to Europe and meet with all their suppliers, buy all the parts, get others made and import it into Qatar. They really pulled out all the stops and it was truly amazing they managed to complete this part of the project at all,” said Mr Roche.

However, this was not the end of the story. “During construction of the roof and the dome the sub-contractor under-estimated the loads the formwork would have to take. We all thought you’d be able get something ready made from Doka or Peri, but that wasn’t the case. The contractor therefore had to build a 300 tonne steel structure inside the atrium to take the loads of the floor and roof slabs during construction,” explained Mr Roche.

Final fit out

As the MOIA moves into the final fit out stage the high levels of finishing required throughout continue to exercise Turner’s team. The display cases, for example, called for specialist floor to ceiling sliding doors that vacuum seal the case. Working this out required its own team of engineers from Mivan Depa. Elsewhere, recessed light switches and fire alarms had to be retro cut by hand into the stone panels, which takes time.

The wooden panels used internally are also highly finished. The wood comes from Brazil and was chosen for its ability to take a special finish that involved rubbing metal filings over the surface to give the right shine. This was done by hand in Dubai, where labour costs were lower.

Other high spec details include steel meshes that stretch from floor to ceiling, travel across the ceiling and them come back down to the floor in the museum shop. Keeping them taught and mounting them was “a real headache”, according to Mr Roche.

“All these things make the job difficult, it’s definitely not your run of the mill project. And these kinds of details sometimes meant we found ourselves on the side of the contractors when it came to resolving disputes.

“However, if we were building this in Europe, given the changes and detail required it would have taken at least five years. We expect to do it in three and a half,” added Mr Roche.

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