Located in Doha, Qatar, the Arab Center needed to reflect the local culture and acknowledge the city’s heritage, while appealing to the modern students and academics who will travel from around the world to study and learn at the Center. The campus also had to promote sense of community and healthy lifestyle, with a layout that promotes collegial life. The goal: Apply B+H’s integrated planning approach to create an Arab community within a neutral context through compelling architecture, planning and landscape and interior design.
We approached the campus as if it were a city. The campus is organized and integrated just like a mixed-use community within a diverse urban centre. Our planning and design teams identified discreet zones and land uses on the site, helping to define spaces for study, socializing, administration, and cultural enrichment.
To acknowledge the city’s heritage and reflect the local culture, a variety of public spaces were designed to reference the medinas of traditional Arabic cities. We designed active and vital animated spaces, echoing the feel of a village square; spaces to encourage conversation amongst the researchers, students, families, visiting scholars and faculty. However, we also incorporated quiet, landscaped areas that promote contemplation. This was achieved by applying interior design concepts rich in material detail, referencing historical Arab geometric patterns and calligraphy that recall the architectural typologies typical to certain city spaces. This townscape acts as a functional, urban realm of connected public and private spaces, contributing to the community feel.
As an allusion to historical Arabic and pre-Arabic walled cities, the Center is surrounded by a 1.5 metre-high wall, separating the “city” from its surroundings and creating a backdrop to the landscaped embankment.
We mobilized B+H studios from the Americas to the Middle East to plan and design this campus. In response to the local climate, traditional models for acclimatization offer relief from the hot sun. For instance, solar shading devices inspired by Arabic calligraphy work in concert with tree cover to create a comfortable, shaded walkway.
The architectural, planning and landscape and interior design concepts throughout reference historical Arab and pre-Arab communities through the use of material details which recall historical Arab geometric patterns, calligraphy, and ancient walled cities. The nods to Arabic history, combined with modern academic facilities — including a museum, conference centre, exhibition hall and mosque – position the Arab Center as a node of cultural exchange, as well as a leader in innovative academic development.