MUSCAT: A Perth architecture company has been chosen to design the sultanate’s new AUS$500mn museum, an international arts destination intended to rival leading names like New York’s Guggenheim and St Petersburg’s State Hermitage.

Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland, designers of Fremantle’s Maritime Museum and the new Perth Children’s Hospital, beat international competition to secure their biggest contract in the sultanate, Australian media reported.

Cox’s design for the Oman Renaissance Museum is expected to become a window into the sultanate as it embraces tourism and reveals itself to the West. Cox design director Steve Woodland said the firm had won major Middle East contracts before, including a tower in Dubai and a university in Abu Dhabi, but the Oman project was special because of its cultural impact.

“It’s a huge coup for us,” he said. “It is a major cultural project and it does cement us in the international stage.” The museum is intended to be a celebration of the country’s economic, cultural and social renaissance since the 1970s. Woodland said the 30ha museum site was deliberately in a barren, almost-lunar setting inland from the capital Muscat so the building’s outline would pick up the crystalline forms of the Al Hajar mountains.

“In the morning the mountains are silhouetted,” he said. “In the afternoon they are hit with light and they glow.” Building work is due to start this year and finish by late 2018. Local materials including natural stones shaped by traditional craftsmen will be used for the 50,000sq m museum.

The project is a watershed for Woodland and fellow senior director Greg Howlett, who studied together at Applecross Senior High School and Western Australian Institute of Technology in the 1970s before becoming competitors. “I realised in the early ’90s it was a case of ‘get big, get small or get out’ and get big was what I aimed to do,” Howlett said.

“A while later, I was with Steve and said if we got our act together we’d have much better success,” he added.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily