Qatar National Library
The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books in a floor area of 42,000m2. The edges of the 138m-long building are lifted from the ground, forming prisms on the exterior, with a corrugated-glass façade that filters bright natural light, creating a tranquil atmosphere for reading. The diffused light is directed further into the core of the building by a reflecting aluminium ceiling. Outside, a sunken patio provides light to the staff office space in the basement, and at the same time acts as transition space before entering the world of books.
Internally, three created aisles accommodate the book collection and, at the same time, enclose a central triangular space. This configuration also allows the visitor to access the building at its centre, rather than laboriously entering from the perimeter. The aisles are designed as a topography of shelving, interspersed with spaces for reading, socialising 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 of infrastructure – they incorporate artificial lighting, ventilation, and the book return system. A column-free bridge connects the library’s main aisles, allowing for a variety of routes throughout the building. The bridge is also a meeting space: it hosts media and study rooms, reading tables, exhibition displays, a circular conference table and a large multipurpose auditorium, enclosed by a retractable curtain designed by Amsterdam studio InsideOutside, also responsible for the landscaping. Qatar National Library contains Doha’s National Library, Public Library and University Library, and preserves the Heritage collection of valuable texts and manuscripts related to the Arab-Islamic civilization (including the Ptolemy map entitled “Sexta Asiae Tabula”, the first to mention Qatar as Catara in Latin, printed in Rome in 1478). The Heritage collection is placed at the centre of the library in a six-metre-deep excavated-like space, clad in beige travertine. The collection can also operate autonomously, directly accessible from the outside.
Qatar 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, in an organised effort to raise the country’s love of learning.