Al Wahda Arches
A gateway to innovation
These unique arches are the largest and tallest monument in Qatar that light up Doha’s night skyline, are considered a focal point in the extension of the capital and also send a message of defiance to the world.
Standing at almost 100m tall, consisting of 54 large steel pieces and weighing over 9,000 tons, Qatar’s Al Wahda Arches are another remarkable addition to the country’s notable architecture. The distinctive intertwined dual arches are located along the new Lusail Expressway and act as a gateway to Doha’s West Bay business district.
The arches were built for the Public Works Authority Ashghal by steel fabrication expert Eversendai Qatar at the Interchange 5/6. The site was closed in 2013, with around 4,000 workers involved in the construction, and it was revealed to the public in 2017.
The inauguration took place in the midst of National Day celebrations in December as part of the opening ceremony for the Lusail Expressway project, which links Doha with Lusail City. It is considered as one of the country’s most pioneering projects and is a part of the future vision for a post 2022 World Cup strategy.
Height of the larger arch. It’s also 146.5 m wide , while the smaller arch is 139.8 m wide and 77.6 m high.
Eversendai Qatar were given the contract to build the Al Wahda Arches and the Doha Visitors Centre for around $74.2 million
The Lusail Expressway project was awarded the Engineering News Record (ENR) award for Global Best Project in the Roads/Highway category in 2018.
The showcasing of the new monument was a momentous celebration for the country and its people — the arches lit up in the colours of the Qatari flag and featured the famous words of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, ‘Promise of Prosperity and Glory’ after which the numbers 5/6 appeared in the sky. This was in reference to the date of the Qatar blockade, when the country woke up on 5 June 2017 to find itself under an air, land and sea blockade imposed by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, as well as Egypt. But this did not stop Qatar from continuing to reach its potential. A few months after the imposition of the unjust blockade, Qatar chose the language of resilience and sent a clear message to everyone by inaugurating one of the most important architectural landmarks in the capital.
The arches are not only a modern art piece, but also considered a focal point in connecting people to the smart Lusail City, West Bay and other areas in the country with ease.
The monument was designed by German architect Erik Behrens of the American multinational engineering firm, AECOM. Behrens is known for his creativity and unique design ideas that challenge traditional architecture, with work that has stunned royal families and high-end developers around the world.
The design itself is unique, with two angled arches connected by a fishnet-like design, taking inspiration from Qatar’s maritime heritage, while the base features Limra limestone, sourced and supplied from Turkey. The challenging shape meant that the installation was extremely complex, due to the leaning angle and overall massive size, but like with everything else in Qatar, it was an obstacle the country quickly overcame.
Over the course of time, Al Wahda Arches became so popular that a special postage stamp was made for it in 2018 called 5/6 Interchange. The stamps help perpetuate the message that the arches personify — that Qatar will continue to overcome any challenges it is faced with and move forward to achieve its visions.
Based in London, Erik Behrens is the head of the London Design Studio for Special Projects. From the start of 2007, he has worked on multiple projects in Qatar, including the Oxygen Park in Education City, the Al Wahda Arches and the Visitors Centre in Doha. He has also designed multiple projects across the Middle East, in the US and across Europe.
Behrens has also given lectures and exhibited work internationally, including in Venice, the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Architecture Biennale and the Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin. He is regularly invited as a design critic at universities like TU Munich, Harvard GSD, Bartlett UCL and AA London.