The Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan is one too many celebrated for the art of carpet weaving that is a predominant aspect of their culture and history. So it was only natural for this country to establish a one of a kind museum dedicated solely to carpets and rugs. The museum founded in 1967 was originally housed in the Juma Mosque in the old city of Baku. It was later relocated to the Baku Museum Center after the collapse of the USSR in 1992.
When the Azerbaijani carpets were proclaimed “a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage” by UNESCO in 2010 plans were made to recognize its continued importance and place in world culture. As a result, in 2014, it got its new home in the seaside park in the current museum building that resembles a rolled carpet, designed by the Austrian architect, Franz Janz, and was renamed the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.
History, Design and Planning
Apart from the fact that a quite historically-significant building had to be removed to make way for this new structure, the design appears quite antithetical to what is considered to be quite a serious museum. Situated within expansive grounds the museum is enclosed with elaborate and lush gardens, beautifully appointed around the entrance, paved in an abundance of natural stone.
The walkways, the entrance steps, are paved with beige marble. It has an outdoor patio connected to the ground floor restaurant. A pair of bridges was also designed to connect the museum with the adjacent park. The bridges have wall cladding, pavers, stair treads, and copings, all lined with the same stone intentionally used for continuity.
The museum initiated the collection and research of the wide assortment of carpets and traditional weaving found in Azerbaijan before and during the Soviet period. The first exhibition was held in 1972 when the museum was still contained in the 19th-century Juma Mosque. The museum continued to acquire carpets throughout the 1970s and 80s, and now houses over about 10,000 exhibits that include pile carpets, flat-woven carpets, and objects made out of woven materials, textiles, embroideries, metalwork, and jewelry. The exhibition is laid out on three floors.
The first floor showcases the development of Azerbaijan carpets and its role in traditions where visitors can walk through a timeline of Azerbaijani carpet weaving ranging from the earlier simple woven mats made from cane and reed to the more complex woven forms. Weaving tools are kept on display like looms, wool, ropes, and carpet bags.
The second floor displays the trends of the Azerbaijani carpet weaving schools. It is occupied by the pile carpets, in various groups, and shows information about collective motifs found in Azerbaijani folk art, such as buta, dragons, tree of life, different styles of crosses, and Islamic symbols.
The third floor focuses on Carpet weaving of the contemporary period and how the art has developed through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Latif Karimov, a prominent carpet designer, and scientist who played a role in the establishment of the museum is among the featured artists.
The museum pays great attention to tangible and intangible cultural heritage and now also runs as a research, training, and educational center hosting numerous events, such as exhibitions, conferences, and international symposiums bringing together artists and scientists from different countries.
Throughout its course, the museum kept reviving the ancient weaving techniques and has conducted more than thirty exhibitions in multiple countries throughout the world to popularize the craft of carpet weaving. The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is one of the country’s most modern buildings today that stores a rich collection of artifacts and carpets, functions as the center for the imposing research of the traditional art of carpet weaving, and its popularization on a global level.
The Carpet Museum stands as a forerunner in carrying out all-inclusive programs in Azerbaijan for people with physical disabilities. They have all the texts in the permanent exhibition reproduced in Braille for the convenience of people who are visually impaired. The museum also hosts virtual tours with a sign language translation for individuals with hearing loss and offers a guided tour with an interpreter of sign language.
Taking over six years to complete, it is the first specialized museum of carpets in the world that opens its doors to thousands of visitors offering unique exhibitions, events, and educational programs annually. This period saw an enormous revolution in the building stock of Baku.
Remarkable contemporary buildings were fashioned and created, moving away from the grand 19th-century buildings made in the first oil boom and the rather depressing Soviet-period architecture. The city began its commitment to modern architecture that can be seen with the Flame Towers, along with the Heydar Aliyev Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid, and now, emerged as a cultural landmark, stands the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum on Baku’s growing skyline. The cultural bridge of the past paving the way to the future is seen here remarkably and goes on to show how the medieval and modern can co-exist so peacefully.