'The library’s role as public meeting space is more significant than ever': OMA's Qatar National Library officially opens

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
– Rem Koolhaas

The Qatar National Library (QNL) in Doha, designed by international architects OMA, has been officially opened by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Conceived as a space for reading, socialising and browsing, the building houses more than a million books and space for thousands of readers over an area of 42,000sq m (452,000sq ft). The marble bookshelves, organised around a central triangular space, segue with the floors to form wide topographical tiers that raise up above the open-plan site. They also incorporate key infrastructure, such as artificial lighting, ventilation, and the book return system.

“We designed the space so you can see all the books in a panorama,” said OMA founder Rem Koolhaas. “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.”

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 with access to media and study rooms, reading tables, exhibition displays, a circular conference table, and a large multipurpose auditorium.

In the centre of the library, a six-metre-deep excavated-like space, clad in beige travertine and directly accessible from outside the building, houses the heritage collection of valuable texts and manuscripts related to the Arab-Islamic civilization.

“We have paid tribute to the region’s rich culture with the Heritage Library, excavated from the ground like an archaeological site, holding historical and priceless Islamic texts for visitors to study and contemplate,” said OMA partner Ellen van Loon, one of the project leaders.

Externally, the library has a striking angular form and a corrugated-glass façade, that filters the otherwise bright natural light to create a tranquil atmosphere for reading inside. Outside, a sunken patio provides light to the staff office space in the basement and acts as transition space for visitors entering the building. Surrounding landscaping was designed by Dutch firm InsideOutside.

This is the third library built by OMA, following the Seattle Central Library in the US and the Bibliothèque Alexis de Tocqueville in Caen, France.

“Classically, libraries were vibrant spaces for the exchange of knowledge,” said van Loon. “With the immediate accessibility of information in the current era, the library’s role as public meeting space is more significant than ever.”

The QNL is part of the wider Education City development, a new academic campus which hosts satellite campuses from leading universities and institutions from around the world. Other OMA-designed buildings on the campus include the Qatar Foundation Headquarters and a new branch for the Research Institute.

Qatar National Library  Doha  OMA  Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani  Rem Koolhaas  Ellen van Loon  
The Qatar National Library (QNL) in Doha, designed by international architects OMA, has been officially opened by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani. Conceived as a space for reading, socialising and browsing, the building houses more than a million books and space for thousands of readers over an area of 42,000sq m (452,000sq ft). The marble bookshelves, organised around a central triangular space, segue with the
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In the centre of the library, a six-metre-deep excavated-like space houses the heritage collection of valuable texts and manuscripts / Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of OMA
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