OMA-Designed Qatar National Library Debuts

Made from the same white marble as the floors, shelves function as part of the building. Image courtesy Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti.

Totaling more than 452,000 square feet, the Qatar National Library (QNL) has debuted as the new home for the National Library, Public Library, University Library, and the Heritage Collection. Designed by OMA, the highly anticipated project accommodates more than one million books and thousands of visitors.

Image courtesy Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti.

The edges of the structure are elevated off the ground to create three aisles that display books and enclose a central triangular space. Aisles are configured as a topography of shelving that is interspersed with spaces for reading, socializing, and discovery. Made from the same white marble as the floors, shelves function as part of the building in terms of materiality and infrastructure. The Heritage Collection, which comprises valuable texts and manuscripts related to Arab-Islamic civilization, sits at the core of the library in a sunken, 20-foot-deep travertine enclave.

Images courtesy Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti, and Hans Werlemann.

“Classically, libraries were vibrant spaces for the exchange of knowledge. With the immediate accessibility of information in the current era, the library’s role as public meeting space is more significant than ever,” said OMA architect Ellen van Loon. “We pay tribute to the region’s rich culture with the Heritage Library, excavated from the ground like an archeological site, holding historical and priceless Islamic texts for visitors to study and contemplate.”

Conceived as a single room, the library arrives as part of the new Education City, an academic campus that hosts satellite campuses from several international universities. OMA also designed the Qatar Foundation Headquarters on the campus as well as a new branch for the Research Institute.

Images courtesy Iwan Baan. 

“We designed the space so you can see all the books in a panorama. You emerge immediately surrounded by literally every book—all physically present, visible, and accessible, without any particular effort,” Rem Koolhaas added. “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.”