The renowned international architectural practice OMA has designed the new Qatar National Library (QNL) in Doha, which was officially opened last month. Following the Seattle Central Library in the USA and the Bibliothèque Alexis de Tocqueville in France, this is the third library built by OMA.
QNL encompasses the National Library, the Public Library, the University Library, and the Heritage Collection, which consists of valuable texts and manuscripts related to the Arab-Islamic civilization. The public library houses over a million books and space for thousands of readers over an area of 42,000 sqm (425,000 sqft). The National Library is part of the Education City, a new academic campus which hosts satellite campuses from leading universities and institutions from around the world. Other OMA designed buildings on the new campus include the Qatar Foundation Headquarters and a new branch for the Research Institute.
The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books. The edges of the building are lifted from the ground creating three aisles which accommodate the book collection and, at the same time, enclose a central triangular space. This configuration also allows visitors to access the building at its center, rather than laboriously entering from the perimeter.
The aisles are designed as a topography of shelving, interspersed with spaces for reading, socializing and browsing. The bookshelves are meant to be part of the building both in terms of materiality – they are made of the same white marble as the floors – and infrastructure – they incorporate artificial lighting, ventilation, and the book return system. The heritage collection is placed at the center of the library in a six-meter-deep excavated-like space, clad in beige travertine. The collection can also operate autonomously, directly accessible from the outside.
Rem Koolhaas, OMA: ‘We designed the space so you can see all the books in a panorama. You emerge immediately surrounded by literally every book – all physically present, visible, and accessible, without any particular effort. The interior is so large it’s on an almost urban scale: it could contain an entire population, and also an entire population of books.’
LOCATION: Doha, Qatar
CLIENT: Qatar Foundation
PROGRAM: Library, office, exhibition, restaurant / bar
PARTNERS: Rem Koolhaas, Ellen van Loon, Iyad Alsaka
COST ANALYST: David Langdon
INTERIOR, CURTAINS, LANDSCAPE: Inside Outside
CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENT PHASE: CCDI
PHOTOS: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, Hans Werlemann, Iwan Baan, Courtesy of OMA