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OMA-Designed Qatar National Library Officially Opens

The Qatar National Library in Doha officially opened its doors to the public on April 16. Designed by Rem Koolhaas’s firm, OMA, the angular concrete building with diamond-shaped facades is approximately 452,000 square feet. Located in Education City—a region on the outskirts of the capital that was designated for schools, universities, research facilities, and other educational initiatives—the structure is divided into three wings, each housing a different kind of library: the National Library, the Public Library, and the University Library. It also contains the Heritage Collection, which comprises valuable texts and manuscripts related to the Arab Islamic civilization.

After a six-month trial period, which began last November, the library was inaugurated by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the current emir of Qatar, who placed the one-millionth book, a rare 843-year-old manuscript copy of Sahih Al Bukhari, on the library’s shelves.

More than six years in the making, the library boasts a conservation library, a digitization lab, a 120-seat auditorium, and dedicated areas for children. Conceived of as one large open space, the library emphasizes its role as a public gathering space through its design. The sides of the building are elevated above the ground, allowing visitors easy access through the centrally located entrance to the massive facility. The stacks are also elevated—a configuration that mimics stadium-style seating—and areas for reading and socializing are integrated throughout the aisles of books.

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

This is the third library built by the firm. Among its other completed projects are the Seattle Central Library in the United States and the Bibliothèque Alexis de Tocqueville in Caen, France. OMA is also currently working on the Qatar Foundation headquarters and a research institute, both of which will also be located in Education City.