National Archive and Msheireb Prayer Ground

Allies and Morrison, Doha, 2016


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Calligraphy is used throughout the building to embody Qatar’s narrative traditions 

Gerry O'Leary     Download Original

  • Calligraphy is used throughout the building to embody Qatar’s narrative traditions    
  • The building is regarded both as a durable container and a lasting symbol for Qatar’s archive    
  • The building has a role as both an urban landmark and a socio-cultural icon    
  • The structure sits on a hill with divergent outlines    
  • The building used innovative design techniques and unusual finishing practices    
  • The prayer ground is a a 4,000m² open area    
  • The gross internal area of the prayer ground is 31,931m²    
  • The architect    
  • The archive is composed of three volumes informally organised around a group of courtyard houses converted into museums    
  • The project was a structural challenge    
  • The prayer ground contains public amenities, stairs and ramps and storage spaces    
  • Masterplan    
  • Site plan    
  • Archive floor plans    
  • Msheireb prayer ground floor plan    
  • Section AA    
  • Sections AA and BB    
  • Diwan Amiri Quarter concept sketch    
  • National Archive concept sketch    

With its National Archive and Msheireb Prayer Ground in Downtown Doha, Allies and Morrison has introduced new architecture into a traditional context.

The Qatar National Archive and Msheireb Prayer Ground are located in the landmark Msheireb Downtown Doha development. Their contextual backdrop includes surrounding physical historical references, such as the traditional Souk Waqif market, the Doha Bay, the Al Khoot Fort, and several large heritage houses, as well as the intangible city narrative of a point of arrival from the sea and a place of gathering.

The project’s buildings are linked to an historically Qatari archetype. The Diwan Annex is designed in the style of the historical liwan-enclosed diwania (small palace); the Amiri Guards HQ references the fort and courtyard dwelling; while the National Archive takes its cue from the fortified watchtower. The National Archive wraps around the smallest of the heritage houses in Phase 1, the Radwani House, and lifts off its central volume to allow views from the street towards the house, which forms the archive’s café and shop.

The Msheireb Prayer Ground, a 4,000m² open area, sits on a hill with divergent outlines, thus requiring an erudite solution to accommodate a perfectly flat and rectangular prayer ground with maximum capacity. The Qibla Wall sets the orientation of the rectangular praying space, which is enclosed by forcibly irregular interstitial areas, containing public amenities, stairs and ramps and storage spaces.

The choice of materials and references is linked to historical precedent and cultural significance. Omani stone is used to emphasise the Qibla Wall and the two distinct patterns of praying lines on the ground, while the rest of the structure is covered in similar-colour render and GRC decorative panelling. Traditional patterns, rather than original ones as featured in the National Archive, are used in the bronze-finished aluminium gates and GRC panels, to carry the decorative traditions of the past into the present and future. Also here, calligraphy – an Ayah from the Qu’ran – is inscribed in the stonework of the Qibla Wall. The wall is further lined up with recessed seating spaces on both sides of the mirhab (the central niche), which echo domestic vernacular architecture.

The National Archive structure proved a significant engineering challenge, with long clear spans at the ground floor and significant floor loads at all upper levels. A strut-and-tie structural design approach was used for the cast in-situ concrete load-bearing walls, which included large floor-to-ceiling windows in some areas. A large horizontal tie ran below the narrow vertical window openings with vertical ties and diagonal struts around each wall opening forming a truss.

In all, the building used innovative design techniques and unusual finishing practices for the cornerstone project of what may be the world’s largest LEED-certified community.


  • Begun: 2010
  • Completed: 2016
  • Floor area: 31,931m2
  • Sectors: Arts and culture, Religious, Office
  • Procurement: Direct appointment
  • Address: Doha, Qatar

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