Introducing Global Spectacular

Earlier last month we published The Global Spectacular: Contemporary Museum Architecture in China and the Arabian Peninsula by Karen Exell, Honorary Senior Research Associate at UCL Qatar. 

The book provides, for the first time, the wave of 'starchitect'* designed museums under construction in some Arabian Peninsula states, China and other emerging economies and examines buildings by leading architects such as Nouvel, Gehry, Hadid and Foster. 

Split into three sections, the first, titled The Contemporary Vernacular, presents case studies of contemporary museum architecture which responds to place and tradition (pp.13) including the Museum of Handcraft Paper, China, the Luyeyuan Stone Sculpture Art Museum, China and the Qal'at Al Bahrain Museum, Bahrain. 

Museum of Handcraft Paper, China 

Luyeyuan Stone Sculpture Art Museum, China

Qal'at Al Bahrain Museum, Bahrain 


Part two, The Global Spectacular, looks at the architectural projects designed by the 'starchitects', which Exell describes as "characterised by scale, flamboyance and formal experimentation", made possible by new, computer-aided design modelling software as well as available funds which give the architects freedom to create buildings that are expected to have a global and visual impact (pp.81). These buildings include, the Suzhou Museum, China, the Etihad Museum, Dubai and the Museum of Middle Eastern Modern Art (MOMEMA), Dubai. 

Suzhou Museum, China

Etihad Museum, Dubai

MOMEMA, Dubai 


The last section, Concluding Thoughts: Vernacular and Spectacular Architecture in Modernity, highlights Exell's thoughts on Vernacular and Spectacular design in terms of their reflection of the regions in which they are situated. She believes that the case studies discussed throughout the book communicate messages, helping us to understand key cultural, political and economic agendas. She concludes that both of the architectural trends influence the way we think about space, mobility and identity, big ideas which she says are central to the role of museums in the twenty-first century (pp.117). 


Global Spectacular is available to order from our UK website and to preorder from our US website, publishing in 3 September 2018.


* A term used to describe an architect whose critical acclaim and celebrity has made them famous in the world of architecture and sometimes beyond