Cover The futuristic Qatar skyline (Photo: Visit Qatar/Unsplash)

From the sharp angles of the Qatar National Library to the fluid lines of the Al Janoub Stadium, Qatar’s architecture is astounding. Here are seven must-see buildings if you're attending the World Cup.

As the world's most anticipated football event kicks off in Qatar in what is also the first World Cup in the Arab world, it's interesting to note that there is a total of eight new stadiums built to accommodate the 64 matches to be played in the tournament. 

More than just football pitches, these stadiums boast starchitect branding, not unlike the futuristic skyscrapers and incredible structures designed by world-renowned architects such as I.M. Pei, Jean Nouvel, and OMA that have sprung up around Doha in the last decade.

From awe-inspiring libraries to magnificent museums, we pick seven must-visit design marvels.

1. Qatar National Library

Distinctively angular with an unexpected form, the Qatar National Library is located in Education City, a 12km² campus housing multiple educational and research institutes.

Designed by renowned Netherlands firm OMA, its interior is as spectacular as its exterior. The vast facility is home to more than one million books. It utilises innovative technology like automated book sorting and a “people mover” system to ensure the collection is accessible to everyone.

At its heart is a heritage library buried six meters below ground level that holds documents dating as far back as the seventh century AD and was constructed to look like an excavation site.

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2. Ceremonial Court

Another landmark in Education City is The Ceremonial Court, an open-air facility used for special events.

Designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki who won the Pritzker Prize in 2019 after this building was completed, the building features latticed patterns ubiquitously found throughout the country incorporated in pergolas that flank the plaza.

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3. National Museum of Qatar

Delicate and almost ephemeral, the commanding National Museum of Qatar was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. 

Its lyrical form was inspired by desert rose crystal formations, featuring interlocking discs made of steel trusses clad in glass-reinforced concrete and spanning a whopping 430,500 square feet.

The shadows created by overhanging elements allow visitors to stroll around the outside while protecting the interior from light and heat.

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4. Al Janoub Stadium

Formerly known as the Al Wakrah Stadium, the futuristic design of the Al Janoub Stadium was designed by late architect Dame Zaha Hadid.

Inspired by the sails of the dhow boats traditional to Qatar, its billowing form that soars over the skyline of Al Wakrah, a city to the south of Doha, is a nod to the coastal city's maritime heritage.

Boasting a capacity of 40,000, its retractable roof and innovative cooling system ensure that events can be held all year round, even during the searing heat of the summer months.

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5. Doha Tower

The Doha Tower was Jean Nouvel's first project in Qatar, predating the National Museum of Qatar by seven years. Its design expresses the local culture, connecting modern and ancient Islamic designs.

Located on a corniche road in the city centre overlooking the gulf, the body of water can be seen through the filleted circumference of the dome that caps the rounded skyscraper.

The tower is an engineering feat with 46 floors above ground, three floors below ground, and a total gross floor area of approximately 110,000 m². It has no central core, leaving more internal space available for its occupants. 

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6. Museum of Islamic Art

Designed by the late I.M. Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art was the Pritzker Prize-winning architect's last major building and was completed in 2008, just months before his 92nd birthday.

Precisely detailed using materials of the highest quality, the 376,740 sq ft building’s formation of angular volumes deliberately hides a central dome within a tower and gives the impression of a great fortress separated from land by a narrow moat. 

Its minimalist form is underlined by the creamy French limestone blocks, which reflect blinding sunlight, contrasting with deep shadows that shift continually throughout the day. 

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7. Lusail Stadium

This massive 80,000-capacity stadium designed by Foster + Partners is the centrepiece of the World Cup. Its circular design reflects the handcrafted bowls found all across the Arab and Islamic world, while the interplays of light mirror the Fanar lanterns of the region.

After the tournament, most of the seats will be removed and donated to developing countries. Meanwhile, the golden exterior is designed to take on its patina over time, slowly fading to replicate the appearance of aged metal handicrafts.


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