Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) announced the transformational plans of the Doha Fire Station into an artist in residence programme, to be called Fire Station: Artists in Residence.

It will present the opportunity for exchange between local artists, the academia, the community and the flourishing art scene in Qatar. The building will provide 24 studios and a gallery space for exhibition and community interaction.

Assistant Curator, Noor Abuissa, said:

The gallery space will operate to support local artists whether in residence or not. It will allow for cultural dialogue and exchange between artists living in Qatar and the rest of the world.’

Fire Station: Artists in Residence will house a rolling nine-month Artist in Residency programme. The residency programmes will first be open to local Qatari artists and residents of Qatar, it will then be open later to regional artists. In addition to esteemed artist weekly mentoring programmes, artists in residence will have access to QMA museums, special exhibitions, lectures and privileged access to interact with museum curators. Their residency will culminate in an exhibition in the Garage Gallery to showcase their productions.

Head of Artists in Residence Program, Hala Al Khalifa, said:

The Doha Fire Station is a building of great importance to the community; it has served the community the past thirty years and will continue to do so through the arts with a new identity as Fire Station: Artists in Residence. Our goal is to support artists living in Qatar and provide a platform for creative exchange.’

The Doha Fire Station was built in 1982 as a Civil Defense building. The building was occupied by the fire brigade until late 2012 when the building was handed over to QMA for preservation and conservation. As the state puts emphasis on preserving old architecture, this is an example of recycling a building for contemporary use. Moreover, the existing tower will be LED programmed allowing for the community to engage and be aware of activities at Fire Station.  The project is led by renowned Qatari architect Ibrahim Al Jaidah, who has retained much of the original building. He said:

I am thrilled to see that such recognition and importance is given to our early modern architectural era from the period 1970-1980. I have had an opportunity to be involved in a number of projects of a similar character: renovation of the Ministry of Finance, Old Amiri Diwan, Post Office building, and now the Firehouse. It is my great honor to be working with QMA on this unique project. Our city will have such great space, space with history, available for work and as inspiration to many local, regional and international artists. I am very happy to see this project under way, not only as its designer and architect, but also as a citizen and individual who is interested in arts.’

Building work on the site began in August 2013. The first phase of the development is due for completion in November 2014, which is when the public opening will take place. The second phase of Fire Station: Artists in Residence is due for completion in 2015 with coffee shops, restaurants and other facilities.

Director of Public Art Programs, Jean Paul Engelen, said:

We want to preserve the landmark building for Qatar. When speaking to my Qatari friends, they talk about how they used to visit the Fire Station in school. It’s part of the Qatari identity, and we want to preserve it as a cultural building.’

Whilst the original building will retain many existing features, the public spaces will be newly built to host a café, restaurant, bookshop, art supply shop, a cinema, and artist facilities. The current fire engine garage is approximately 700 sq meters, which will be converted into an exhibition space dedicated to promoting local and regional artists. In addition to hosting the end of year exhibition for resident artists, the Garage Gallery will also serve as another venue for Mathaf exhibitions.

Al Khalifa added:

It’s [Fire Station: Artists in Residence] not a museum. It’s for artists in residence…We want to preserve the building and the name. I don’t want it to go away from our daily conversations.’

All artists will be provided with studio spaces in the building, with 24 studios in total. The studios will be accessible 24 hours a day. Artists will benefit from periodical visits by professional in the field of arts.