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Qatar Foundation to build Qatar National Library

Published on 24.11.2012 by @QatarSteve

Qatar Foundation has long recognized the need to develop a central library to unify existing libraries within the universities of Qatar Foundation. However, Qatar Foundation’s vision of community and its pivotal role in opening new avenues of knowledge for Qataris made it paramount that such an iconic structure must be shared with the public and opened up to all that have a thirst for knowledge. The decision was made that this new beautiful building should house Qatar National Library (QNL), a central library for the universities of Qatar Foundation and a huge metropolitan public library for Qataris and people from around the world.

Rem Koolhaas is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and Professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Koolhaas is the founding partner of Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), a leading international partnership practicing architecture, urbanism, and cultural analysis. Rem Koolhaas is the recipient of many awards, most notably the 2000 Pritzker Prize. In 2008 Time magazine named him in their top 100 list of The World’s Most Influential People.

“It is very exciting to work in Qatar because it is a country that is very ambitious and has a very explicit program. You soon realize that you are actually supporting a larger ambition, which is Qatar’s journey from a carbon economy to a knowledge economy by unlocking human potential. For me as an architect, supporting such an amazing journey is deeply enjoyable,” said Rem Koolhaas, internationally renowned architect designing the new QNL.

To build a bridge between Qatar’s heritage and its future, Qatar National Library will become the knowledge repository of Qatar. In a time, when the information society is crucial to a country’s development, libraries, with their combined printed and digital services, are the building blocks of this development. However, it is important to recognize that each generation of Qataris access knowledge differently, which creates challenges and opportunities..

“Qatar is unique given the country’s generations really have had completely different and unique life experiences. There is huge difference between the generations so when I started contemplating the design and overall theme for the new Qatar National Library, I was aware from the very beginning that I needed to do something that spoke to three very different generations; older people, young people and the kind of people in between these two generations,” commented Rem Koolhaas.

In today’s digital age, when books are accessible on electronic devices, there are questions about the plausibility and future of libraries. Initially the architect brief for Rem Koolhass was very abstract, focusing on the physical measures, such as the number of books on a shelf and highlighting the kinds of technologies to be deployed. However, the majority of Qataris probably have not visited one of the many libraries in the country. This led to the conclusion that the library must represent more than numbers and technology, as each Qatari generation requires a different and compelling reason to visit the library. It was with this understanding that experts began to develop the brief for the construction of the new Qatar National Library.

Building on this conclusion, QNL will offer visitors a breathtaking view from an internal bridge on to the heritage collection in the basement, residing in a space designed to resemble an archeological site. It is a visual and tactile demonstration of how this library is built on Qatar’s heritage. From there the view will go along the upper tiers of bookshelves and will reach a vast space where unlimited digital content is displayed on hundreds of screens.

“Libraries are becoming institutions that promote reading and a search for knowledge. However, as most Qataris probably are not too familiar with what a library can offer to them, it became very important to try to imagine a library where a person who enters will always find themselves at its center. By immediately putting them in the center we will be creating a sense of expectation and demonstrating the enormous energy the new library will offer. This will permit Qataris to spontaneously choose how they will engage with the library. Seeing in one glance all the different features and aspects the library has to offer is crucial to providing a sense of the vast number of possibilities,” commented said Rem Koolhaas.

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