Designed by the Dutch architectural studio OMA under the direction of Rem Koolhaas, Ellen van Loon and Iyad Alsaka, the Qatar National Library is a 42,000 m2 venue that is part of Education City, immense university and cultural complex in Qatar. The building houses Doha’s National Library, Public Library and University Library, as well as the prestigious Heritage Collection, a ‘treasure trove’ of texts and manuscripts of great value to Arab-Islamic civilisation.
The library is conceived as a single huge room, whose horizontal gait is interrupted only by a few slender columns. Vertically, however, the space is delimited by a white reflective aluminium ceiling that amplifies the natural light filtered through the corrugated glass façade.
The edges of the building gradually rise above the ground, creating three large stepped interior areas that house the shelves with books, interspersed with the consultation and reading rooms, and at the same time define a triangular space in the middle of the construction. This particular configuration also allows visitors to the Qatar National Library to enter the building directly from the centre, rather than from the perimeter.
A column-free bridge connects the main corridors of the library, offering the possibility of following different paths within the building. The bridge is also a meeting space, with multimedia and study rooms, reading tables, exhibition spaces, a lecture table and a large multifunctional auditorium, enclosed by an retractabòe curtain designed by the Amsterdam-based InsideOutside studio, which was also responsible for the landscape design.
The Heritage Collection is located in the centre of the library, in a basement space (six metres deep) clad in beige travertine, which can also be accessed independently, directly from outside.
Outside, a sunken patio provides light to the staff offices in the basement and, at the same time, serves as a transitional space before entering the world of books.