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Julian Rose

THE CENTRAL PROPOSITION behind architect Jean Nouvel’s design for the new National Museum of Qatar seems to be that good metaphors make good architecture. The first thing that everyone—the architect, the developer, the museum’s director—wants you to know is that the building looks like a “desert rose,” a small crystalline structure (so named because its shape is an aggregation of thin, bladelike petals) formed by salinated sand just below the desert’s surface. When the design was unveiled at the Museum of Modern Art in New York this past spring, Nouvel began his presentation with a photograph of a desert rose crystal, ensuring that the metaphor was already in his audience’s mind before they saw a single image of his building. Peggy Loar, the National Museum’s director, outdid Nouvel by waving an actual crystal above her head as she began her speech. For both, the crystal was as much a “

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