The National Archive is the landmark component of the Diwan Amiri Quarter at Msheireb. It is both a high performance store house for the State of Qatar’s Archive and a welcoming public building. It sits as a civic marker, occupying the most prominent corner of the Msheireb site, facing both Doha Bay and Souk Waqif. Its geometry, form and permeable lower levels interweave with the historic grain and the memory of the old city.
The Archive is made up of four components. The North Wing contains the main entrance and public spaces, the South Wing contains support facilities, including administration and conservation. Between them stands the archive tower, raised up on a field of columns to form the Grand Portico – a shaded public space which is both a meeting place and a portal into Msheireb’s Heritage Quarter.
The fourth component is the Radwani House – seen from the Souk and framed by the Portico. This charming building is one of Doha’s original courtyard houses; it is planned to become the Archive’s oral history centre.
The interior makes an extraordinary journey for the visitor; tourists visiting exhibitions and readers working in the Archive. A grand timber stair drops down from above into the columned lobby and a multilevel void cuts from bottom to top, connecting levels together and bringing a softened light into the heart of the building.
Framed views look down onto the Radwani House, and out across the Souk and the Bay. One window holds the sand-clock – an ‘hourglass’ which marks time by rotating every hour, filled with sand from the desert of Qatar.
The exterior is a study of Qatari informality and materiality. A patinated, stone cladding is used, giving a richness of surface, with strata bands which reflect the ‘bone structure’ of the shelving stacks within.
The geometry of the building is complex, with a series of juxtaposed angles and facets, growing out of the irregular geometries of the original street pattern.
The Grand scale of the contemporary Portico frames the historic Radwani House.
Deep reveals and distinctive projecting cills ensure that light and shadow play an important part in the facade, a conscious reference to the danshals and marzams of traditional Qatari architecture. Pattern and calligraphy are also explored in abundance to mark focal points within the design.
* Projects while at Allies & Morrison