Architecture – Fifty years ago, the Doha we can explore today did not exist at all. Qatar’s capital city literally exploded where poor desert fishermen’s settlements once were. Dhows, traditional wooden vessels used in the early times for livelihood, are one of the only resilient elements left bridging the past with the present. Constantly threatened by powerful neighbouring countries, minuscule Qatar has managed to become one of the world’s wealthiest nations thanks to the petrol and gas industry, as well as a highly-skilled strategic international diplomacy.
- RELATED STORIES: Discover more Qatari architecture and design on Archipanic.
Visiting Doha today requires an understanding of the country’s short yet intense history defined by the complex geopolitics of the Gulf and of the whole planet at large. As the country grew, national identity was also shaped through architecture’s soft power. Qataris commissioned archistars to build budget-less phantasmagoric towers and museums in order to gain international credibility, attract tourists, and, most recently, diversify the country’s gas economy toward tourism, and culture.
Becoming the host of the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup [read more] fits perfectly in such a plan. That said, we selected eight brilliant contemporary architectures in Doha reflecting the country’s future-driven attitude. ENJOY!
National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel’s National Museum of Qatar took inspiration from ‘desert roses,’ flower-like formations that naturally occur in the Gulf region when minerals crystallize in the crumbly soil. Colliding concrete discs compose cutting-edge architecture surrounding a historic palace turned into a gallery space.
The museum guests eleven connected galleries creating a mile-long path narrating the story of Qatar from the geological period through to the present day. “The building is at the cutting edge of technology, like Qatar itself. As a result, it is a total object: an experience that is at once architectural, spatial, and sensory.” Jean Nouvel told Archipanic. Read more…
Museum of Islamic Art by I.M. Pei
The Museum of Islamic Art narrates over 14 centuries of Islamic art in the Persian Gulf by synchronising the city’s evolving skylines with the country’s architectural identity. Convinced to pause his retirement to commit to the project, Pritzker architect I.M. Pei stacked geometric volumes to create the 5-storey central building featuring a main dome and a central tower.
Located on an artificial peninsula overlooking the Doha Corniche, the museum seems to rise from the water, standing out and blending in with the city’s colours and vibe. Facades in creamy limestone emphasize the various shades at different times of the day. From the inside, large hollow spaces seamlessly lead the eye to the skyline across the bay.
Qatar National Convention Centre by Arata Isozaki and Andrea Maffei Architects
Pritzker Prize winner Arata Isozaki teamed up with Andrea Maffei Architects to complete the Qatar National Convention Centre in 2011. Inspired by Qatar’s beloved icon, the Sidra tree, the building features a facade resembling two intertwined trees reaching up to support the exterior canopy. “In desert culture, the tree is a symbol of learning and comfort and a haven for poets and scholars who gathered beneath its branches to share knowledge,” Arata Isozaki told Archipanic.
The Leadership in Energy and Environment Design – LEED certification for cutting-edge buildings operates efficiently with the building’s sustainable innovations, such as water conservation and energy-efficient fixtures. QNCC features a conference hall of 4,000-seat theatre style, a 2,300-seat theatre, three auditoria, and 52 flexible meeting rooms to accommodate a wide range of events. It also houses 40,000 square metres of exhibition space over nine halls.
Qatar National Library by OMA
Could libraries survive the digital culture? Wondered at OMA. With the Qatar National Library, “we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself,” explained Rem Koolhas to Archipanic. The library is conceived as “a single room that houses both people and books.” The edges of the building are lifted from the ground creating three aisles that accommodate the book collection and, at the same time, enclose a central triangular space.
Visitors access the building at its center. Aisles are designed as a topography of marble bookshelves, interspersed with spaces for reading, socializing, and browsing. A column-free bridge connects the library’s main aisles, allowing various routes and activities throughout the building.
Doha High Rise Office Tower by Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel has long questioned the traditional, orthogonal, central-cored skyscraper. With the Doha High Rise Office Tower, he explored “the concept of a circular-plan tower with a peripheral structural system that allows for open, better-lit spaces with more control over interior lighting and abundant views onto the landscape.” Jean Nouvel told Archipanic.
Crowned by a dome that ends with a light tower at 231.50 m, the 45-m diameter concrete structure follows a diamond-shaped grid that bends along the virtual surface of the cylinder. A double skin with complex Arabic patterns on the exterior layer grants solar protection. Definitely, our favourite high-rise in Doha!
Doha Metro Stations by UNSTUDIO
UNSTUDIO’s Doha Metro Stations draw inspiration from regional architecture while simultaneously presenting an effective vision of the future. The design generates social interaction by referencing the notion of Caravanserais – inns with enclosed courts that served as gathering and resting place on ancient trade routes – and following in the lineage of historic train palaces.
Inside, large vaulted spaces refer to the arch, expressions of traditional architecture, the lightness of the dhow sail, and the tensile profiles of nomadic tents. The dynamic interiors feature an illuminated mother-of-pearl effect recalling the country’s traditional pearls industry.
Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies by Mangera Yvars
The Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies by Mangera Yvars provides world-class teaching and faculty space and the Education City campus mosque. The profoundly spiritual complex is based on the idea of the Islamic Kulliyya, or ‘place where all knowledge is sought.’ The building contains many symbolic and poetic references to Islam and its civilization.
The structure of the Mosque, for example, is based on five large columns representing the five pillars of Islam, each with a verse extracted from the Holy Koran. The building is predominantly white because of the hue’s great resonance in Islam. Two 90-m tall iconic minarets are inclined and oriented toward Mecca. The scheme also includes four Islamic gardens around the perimeter of the building and a calligraphic courtyard at its center.
M7 by John McAslan + Partners
M7 Design and Cultural Hub is Qatar’s epicenter for innovation and entrepreneurship in design, fashion, and tech. The venue by John McAslan + Partners is at the heart of the new Msheireb district. Serene and elemental, the building is composed of interlocking volumes echoing elements found in traditional Qatari architecture.
The central atrium is thought-out so that no artificial lighting is needed during daylight hours. Orientation, shading, and natural ventilation create comfortable and highly sustainable environments in response to extreme climatic conditions.
All photos by the architecture studios.