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CULTURE

Qatar’s amazing architectural delights


A list of some of the country’s most remarkable designs

CULTURE

Qatar’s amazing
architectural delights


Listing some of the country’s most remarkable designs


Qatar continues to gain recognition for its architecture across the world. The designs are reflective of local cultures but incorporate a modern vision, making each building unique to the country. Here are some of the most notable architecture designs to check out when in Qatar.


1. 

Sheraton Grand Doha Resort and Convention Hotel

The Sheraton opened in 1982 and is still one of the most recognisable and well-known buildings in Qatar.

The opening of The Sheraton was the first stepping stone for Qatar’s urban expansion programme. It is built on reclaimed land, and the common description is that it looks like a spaceship had landed in the desert.

This architecture design also contains some of the basic principles of Islamic art in its repeated geometric shapes. The resort has an urban park that has five water features and sculptural landforms for visitors to enjoy and have picnics.

2.

Museum of Islamic Art

One of the most iconic buildings in Qatar is the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) which houses the largest collection of Islamic art in the world.

Award-winning architect, IM Pei, came out of retirement at the age of 91 to complete this project. He spent six months travelling around the Muslim world to understand Islamic design and to gain inspiration.

The museum ended up being inspired by the 9th Century ablution fountain from the Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo, Egypt. Once he had the idea in mind, he did not want to build on any of the spots suggested along the Corniche. This led to the creation of a stand-alone island along the Corniche solely for the museum.

The building’s interior has a dome in the atrium which is shaped like an oculus. This shape gathers light and reflects it into the dome creating different shadows and lights. Perhaps one of the most noticeable features inside is the floor to ceiling window that looks onto the Corniche and Doha’s skyline. Visitors can enjoy the view by trying the café that’s placed near the window.

3.

National Museum of Qatar

Officially opened to the public in March 2019, the architecture of this museum is nothing short of spectacular. Shaped like a desert rose, French architect Jean Nouvel utilised the disks from the desert rose to create the shape of the exterior and interior. It is a unique design that has attracted international attention.

The museum contains artefacts and historical documents that detail Qatar’s history, heritage and culture. They have also incorporated modern technology to display visual and audio-visual artworks to further the visitor’s experience.

From a birds-eye view the disks are surrounding the preserved Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohamed Al-Thani who ruled Qatar in the years 1913-1948.

4.

Fire Station: Artist in Residence

The Fire Station is a little different than the other buildings on this list. It used to be an operating fire station that housed the first civil defence in Qatar but was repurposed in 2014 to become a contemporary art space.

The architect in charge of the project was Qatari architect Ibrahim Al-Jaida who made sure that the details of the already existing building and its tower remained unchanged. Instead, he reshaped the interior to cater to the artist’s needs.

With a redefined minimal industrial design, the fire station now includes a café, an art supply store and a cinema. The fire station garage was also transformed into a “Garage Gallery” to display different artists work annually.

5.

Tornado Tower

This skyscraper stands tall on the West Bay district among its high-rise neighbours. The modern hyperbolic building was made to resemble a tornado in the desert, hence the name.

It was awarded Best Tall Building in the Middle East and Africa by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2009. The Tower received this award for its sustainable design that takes into consideration reducing energy, emissions, and water consumption.

Another aspect of its design revolves around the lighting system, which has been programmed onto the tower, allowing the building to showcase visual effects on special occasions.

6.

Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies

QFIS houses the College of Islamic Studies, which allows both faculty and students to join in intellectual debates about Islam in global contexts.

The building design is based on the Islamic ‘Kulliyya’ or ‘place where all knowledge is sought.’ The Kulliyya also indicates that all knowledge stems from faith.

Mangera Yvars Architects also implemented a mosque to the building that is uplifted by the five pillars of Islam written in Arabic calligraphy.

All the details of the building have a reference or importance to the Islamic religion, including the colour white, which is the colour of the Ihram worn on the pilgrimage to Mecca.

7.

The West Bay Lagoon Plaza (Zig Zag Towers)

These identical twin towers serve as a residential building that is attached to the Lagoona shopping mall.

The view from the tower’s 34 floors shows the Arabian Gulf on one side and the Doha landscape on the other.

This architecture is a tricky design that required manipulating some of the basic rules to achieve a functional building.

8.

Al Janoub Stadium

We can’t talk about architecture in Qatar without mentioning the stadiums built for the 2022 World Cup. This particular stadium, completed in May 2019, was designed by the legendary architect Zaha Hadid.

The brief highlighted for the design was for it to contain cultural references to the traditional boat known as the dhow. Hadid took inspiration from the dhow’s hull and added an abstract spin to it.

The stadium was built to seat 40,000 people, however, 20,000 of those seats are temporary and can be detached after the tournament. Functionality is really important in this stadium since it was made to adhere to Qatar’s climate.

9.

Al Bayt Stadium

This World Cup stadium is inspired by the nomadic people’s tents known as bayt al sha’ar. These tents are identified by the black stripes and sadu patterns, and have been incorporated into the design of this stadium.

Since the stadium is built with a lot of symbolism, visitors are going to gain a precious cultural experience alongside the enjoyment of the games. The precinct that Al Bayt is situated in will also be surrounded by parks and other greenery as part of Qatar’s commitment to sustainability.

10.

Hamad International Airport

Ranked third best airport globally at the SKYTRAX World Airports Awards in 2019, HIA showcases Qatar’s growth in its progressive design.

The architecture takes inspiration from Qatar’s culture and environment through its replication of ocean waves and sand dunes. These shapes can be seen in the curved silhouettes of the building which also has 41 unrestricted contact gates.

Inside the interior is spacious with clear indicators to different gates. The terminal contains many amenities for its guests including a mosque, duty-free shopping, two hotels, a spa and health club.

Another great feature is the display of public art across the airport that were brought through an art programme. The displays are by local and international artists, some notable ones are Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer, Playground by Tom Otterness, Small Lie by KAWS, and A Message of Peace to The World by Ahmed Al Bahrani.


PHOTOS: Cover – Francois Nel / Staff; Sheraton Grand Doha Resort and Convention Hotel – Press kit; Museum of Islamic Art – trevor.patt/Flickr; National Museum of Qatar – Gilbert Sopakuwa/Flickr; Fire Station — Artist in Residence/Facebook, Qatar Museums; Tornado Tower – Neil Emmerson/Getty; Images Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies – trevor.patt/Flickr; The West Bay Lagoon Plaza (Zig Zag Towers) – Stefano Campolo/Flickr; Al Janoub Stadium – Christopher Pike / Stringer; Al Bayt Stadium – Handout / Handout; Hamad International Airport – Hamad International Airport/Flickr.