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John McAslan + Partners

The broad cultural aspirations and ambitious social and educational goals of the new Heritage Quarter in the historic downtown of Doha (ad-Dawha, the capital of the State of Qatar) are clearly reflected by this architectural project redolent with the history and symbols of the local cultural identity. The modern city of Doha is a fairly new phenomenon, the result of the massive transformation during the 20th Century of a fishing village on the shores of the Persian Gulf and the concomitant influx of new inhabitants that got underway especially after the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves in 1939 and their subsequent exploitation following the Second World War. However, the historic center remains a throwback from the past: a maze of narrow pedestrian streets and alleys between the houses - linked today to the public transport system. The project to transform four historic buildings into a cutting-edge museum complex involved not only close consideration of how to integrate the Heritage District with its urban context but also a thorough assessment of the role museums should play in today’s society. Built in the early 20th Century, the four constructions in question were already important historic urban statements in their own right, prime exemplars of rationalist architecture adapted to local climate conditions and available materials. The houses were built around one or more open inner courts, their highly decorated entrance gates the only openings in windowless external walls, in keeping with the local inward-looking architectural typology. The ample use of honed and rough stone, plaster, gypsum board and timber beams is also in the tradition of the solid, monumental constructions all around. These features formed the baseline for the remodeling program. Importantly, restoration, conservation, recovery and the new elements added were also a function of careful consideration not only of general sustainability requirements but also clearly reflect a...

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