I was to transit via Doha this time like I had done before. I travelled by the same flight connection before also. I like Qatar Airways because of its short 90-minute stopover at the Hamad International Airport (HIA). This time it was different. When I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, I was informed that the New Delhi-Doha flight was delayed by an hour and I would be missing the scheduled connection from Doha. So, I was shifted by the airlines to their evening flight. Due to blockade of airspace over Pakistan, all western flights are taking a detour and the flight time increased by around 75 minutes!
On reaching Doha, I had a lot of time to roam around and explore the airport. There is a small metro rail service inside the airport. It takes passengers from the north side to the south side and back. I used the metro rail and travelled to the other side and then returned to enjoy the ride like a kid!
I came across a huge hanging gilded structure made of beads. Named Cosmos, the gilded artwork, is said to connect audiences living in and visiting Qatar with inspiring works of art.
HIA is filled with breath-taking pieces meant to intrigue, surprise and inspires passengers as they travel across the world. Cosmos join other work such as the hugely popular Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer, Small Lie by KAWS, a series of Oryx sculptures by Dutch artist Tom Claassen, and installations entitled ‘Playground’ by American artist Tom Otterness among others.
French artist, Jean-Michel Othoniel displays Cosmos, a large and intricate globe installation that symbolizes the path of travelers around the world taking inspiration from the oldest Islamic Astrolabe that can be found in Museum of Islamic Art’s collection. The artist is best known for modernising the gardens of the Château de Versailles with his striking glass fountain sculptures.
An astrolabe is a circular device used from ancient times until about the 18th century for measuring the position of stars, and on ships for calculating the ship’s position. The early astrolabe was invented in the Hellenistic civilization by Apollonius of Perga between 220 and 150 BCE, often attributed to Hipparchus. Astrolabes were further developed in the medieval Islamic world, where Muslim astronomers introduced angular scales to the design, adding circles indicating azimuths on the horizon. It was widely used throughout the Muslim world, chiefly as an aid to navigation and as a way of finding the Qibla, the direction of Mecca. Eighth-century mathematician Muhammad al-Fazari is the first person credited with building the astrolabe in the Islamic world.
Othoniel drew inspiration for Cosmos from an artefact found in the collection of the IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art in Doha – the oldest Islamic astrolabe in the world. Cosmos pays homage to this extraordinary object, using gold to gild the steel structure of the piece to evoke the warm light of the sun.
The striking piece resembles bright calligraphy drawn in space when observed side-on or from below, and appears in the shape of a blooming rose when observed from the front.
Artworks on display at HIA comprise a mix of site-specific creations transforming one of the world’s fastest-growing airports into an innovative space beyond the walls of a gallery.