The creativity of UNStudio’s design for the new subway system in Doha, Qatar, takes a step beyond reality in its vision for the remaining sections of the network’s four lines.
This ambitious and visionary project sets out to revolutionize the way that people move around the city through the construction of four new underground lines and stations. It goes way beyond tweaking the existing system to fully overhauling the city’s entire public transport network.
Ben van Berkel: "We are going to move differently in the future. Mobility is changing fast, from the introduction of autonomous vehicles to urban cable cars and the Hyperloop. The mobility hubs of the future have to respond and cater to these changes. In order to encourage the use of more sustainable forms of transport, these stations not only have to ensure smooth passenger flows, but they also need to truly appeal to the public – to be places they want to visit and return to".
The cornerstone of the entire design process is a concept of travel as something with an emotional component that changes between departure and arrival. In this way, the project took on its own overall identity while still maintaining within itself marked compositional independence. As Ben van Berkel says in his exclusive video interview for THE PLAN, the secret to achieving this goal was to put together an Architectural Branding Manual, which served as a source of inspiration for a new approach to architectural design. The manual provides design guidelines that contractors can use to diversify the appearance of the almost 100 stations, while still using the same modular elements, materials, and finishes. In this way, each line will have its own identity, but without compromising the overall compositional coherence of the project, thereby creating for the city an extensive and homogeneous work of architecture on an urban scale.
Ben van Berkel: "Through the production of a design manual and with the use of adaptive parametric design, it has been possible to create a design with many variants, yet one which maintains a coherent identity throughout all of the stations. In this way, we can combine local contextual differences within an overall identity and parametrically adapt physical factors such as wayfinding, daylight penetration, passenger flows, constructive elements, etc., in a complex but extremely disciplined system".
Extending for over 60 miles (100 km), the new subway network marks the final step in Doha fully embracing its identity as a modern metropolis. This is all taking place, however, without ever neglecting the history of this Arabian city. The architectural forms of the new stations will strike a balance between innovation and tradition, by drawing on ancient construction techniques, such as the use of courtyards (caravanserais) and ceramics, and combining them with modern technologies. The result will be architecture that springs from the desert in perfect harmony with the surrounding area, but with a hi-tech heart.
Ben van Berkel: "The celebration of arriving and departing has always been found in the design of stations. For the Doha Metro Network, we devised an adaptive parametric system that creates open, light, and welcoming interiors for each of the individual stations. Traditional Qatari architectural features are reinterpreted to incorporate new, transformative qualities that capture daylight and direct this into the interiors, creating uplifting and luminous atmospheres".
The design of such a vast and complex project has demanded the use of three-dimensional BIM modelling so that all the professionals involved can work with flexibility on the same model. This approach will make it possible to adapt each station to its local context, molding every aspect in an organic and shared way, with the overarching goal of reducing CO2 emissions.
Architect: UNStudio: Ben van Berkel
Client: Qatar Railways Company
Location: Doha, Qatar
Photos: © Hufton+Crow
Concept and model: © Qatar Railways Company, designed by UNStudio