Interactive media installation set to be centerpiece of new Northwestern University in Qatar building

Recent conference examined approaches to showcasing the legacy of global and Middle Eastern communications in the installation, to be designed by leading museum architect Ralph Appelbaum

Doha, QatarMarch 17, 2012 – When Northwestern University in Qatar opens its new Education City building in 2014, visitors will encounter a high-tech, interactive media installation that will trace the past, present and future of communication, media and journalism.  The new installation, being designed by world-renowned museum architect and designer Ralph Appelbaum, will connect lessons from global communication with recent developments in Qatar and the Middle East.

A recent consultative conference at NU-Q convened leading historians, media scholars and professionals as well as prominent architects and designers to discuss the content of this project.  The goal, according to NU-Q dean and CEO Everette E. Dennis was “to imagine the range and scope of topics, issues and concerns that capture regional media developments – drawing on the latest research evidence and informed by input from the world’s most knowledgeable experts.”

Rami G. Khouri, a prominent Middle Eastern columnist and research center director at the American University of Beirut who also serves on the NU-Q Board, delivered a key presentation that assessed the role of the Arab Awakenings and suggested how they might be treated in the new exhibition space.  In another major presentation, designer Ralph Appelbaum – whose masterworks include the Newseum and U.S. Holocaust Memorial, both in Washington DC – revealed the technological and creative stimuli for the installation’s design.

“This space offers an extraordinary story that’s never been told.  It will showcase the legacy of journalism and communications in the Arab world,” said Applebaum, in his discussion of the vision for the gateway to Northwestern’s new home.

The technological capabilities offered by the space will put it at the forefront of curatorial innovation, as Northwestern University in Qatar seeks to foster public education and outreach and act as a hub for the future of media in Qatar and throughout the region.

Dean and CEO Dennis added, “This space will contextualize the very essence of Northwestern’s mission here in Qatar – a commitment to the freedom of expression and the elevation and advancement of the media here and throughout the region – by providing an interactive journey that empowers the visitor as much as the curator.”

“I am excited to see our efforts unfold over the upcoming two years.  Together with Qatar Foundation, Ralph Applebaum and all those gathered, I am confident we will create a space that will transform the way we have come to interact with and understand media in this time of immense regional change.”

Other outside participants included Middle Eastern media experts Khaled Hroub of the University Cambridge and Lawrence Pintak of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communication as well as Middle Eastern culture and policy scholars, Melani McAlister and Marc Lynch, both of George Washington University.  Journalism historian Mitchell Stephens of New York University also took part as did media futurist John Carey of Fordham University, former Middle East correspondent and author Jonathan Lyons, and media freedom guru Said Essoulami of the Centre for Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa in London.

Faculty and staff from Northwestern’s Qatar and Evanston, IL campuses also presented, including Senior Associate Dean for the NU-Q School of Communication James Schwoch, Associate Dean D. Charles Whitney, film historian Scott Curtis, journalism historian and author Loren Ghiglione of the Medill School of Journalism, and NU-Q’s Executive Director of Planning, Development, and Construction, Stephen Franklin. NU-Q’s Library Director Michell Hackwelder served as rapporteur.

Ameena Ahmadi, who oversees the project, represented Qatar Foundation’s Capital Projects Directorate.  A joint discussion of the role of the exhibition curator was led by Wassna al-Khudhairi, director of Doha’s Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and Lisa Corrin, director of Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum in the U.S.

American Institutes of Architects gold medal winner, Antoine Predock, designed the building after studying and sketching Qatar’s desert landscapes over the past decade.

Predock said in a 2008 interview “Architecture should grow from its site, responding to the site’s physicality, layers of occupation, technology and spirit. Each building should be a singular unique event of its time and place.”

Northwestern University in Qatar’s new Education City building will open in 2014.