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Reimagining Doha’s Core

Msheireb Downtown Doha | Doha, Qatar
1.4 million sq. ft. / 13,000 sq. m. (above grade)
1.6 million sq. ft. / 14,860 sq. m. (below grade)
The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design 2023 American Architecture Award
Project Facts

What if you could design an entire city center from scratch? How could you make it respond to the needs of today and challenges of tomorrow? How could the design enrich the health and happiness of residents and reflect the history and culture of the community?

Those were questions HOK and an international team of architects and planners grappled with in creating Msheireb Downtown Doha, an urban renewal that creates the world’s first fully built smart and sustainable city center.

HOK’s design of Phase 4 (highlighted) was the final phase of the 77-acre district and adds a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood known as the Business Gateway Quarter.

Satellite image of the city with Msheireb Downtown Doha highlighted.

Doha Then and Now

Few cities in the past century have grown faster or more remarkably than Doha. What was once a small fishing and pearling village is today is a bustling coastal capital of 2 million people.

Gone are the low, adobe buildings that once defined Doha. In their place, steel and glass towers stretch into the sky.

Yet for all of Doha’s modern success, it can be easy to lose sight of the city’s past and culture. Msheireb Downtown Doha is a response to that.

Drag the arrow to see how Doha has changed in recent decades.

A New Vision

Msheireb Downtown Doha re-envisions the future of the Qatari capital by taking cues from past and present.

The site layout incorporates elements of the historic city grid. Building orientation and massing thoughtfully shades pedestrian walkways and allows prevailing breezes from the nearby bay to pass through the site. Traditional building materials provide proven, time-tested sustainability solutions. Narrow streets prioritize pedestrians, not autos.

Narrow streets and a bridge connecting buildings provide shading for pedestrians.
Building sketch inspired by traditional architecture.

During peak design stages, the HOK team included more than 100 architects, engineers, designers and consultants working from sites in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the U.A.E.

Updating Qatar’s Architectural Language

Msheireb Properties challenged the design team to revive Qatar’s architecture language by melding history with modernity.

The architecture of the Business Gateway Quarter incorporates regional materials and draws on Qatari nature and culture to create an architectural language rich in reference, strong in resilience and reflective of the community.

Sun fins shade the windows on this municipal building on the western border of Msheireb Downtown Doha.
Custom ironwork inspired by organic patterns and forms.
External shades shield direct sun and reduce solar heat gain on this HOK-designed hotel building.
"These buildings worked on so many levels. The sculptural qualities, the rhythms and patterns of the facades were both beautiful and performative, and the interweaving of layers of varying depth responds directly to the climate." — Juror , AIA-DC Chapter Design Award in Architecture

Planning for People

The district's layout follows the original road grid. Sikkat al Wadi, the street running diagonally through the HOK district (red) follows the path of the stream from which Msheireb takes its name.
HOK’s design of the Business Gateway Quarter comprises 15 buildings, including office towers, residential units, a medical building, hotel and retail shopping.

The Business Gateway District is the densest section of Msheireb Downtown Doha. Its 15 buildings include office towers, residential buildings, a hotel and retail shopping.

Msheireb translates to “place of sweet water.” The development takes its name from a spring on site that was a traditional gathering space. Similarly, HOK planned the district to support human connection. The diagonal street in the site plan follows the original course of the stream from which Msheireb takes its name.

“In Downtown Doha, we are making individuals and the community the focal point. We want the architecture to serve people and not vice versa.” — Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson, Msheireb Properties

Msheireb Downtown Doha boasts one of the world’s largest underground car parks. The multi-level garage extends the entire footprint of the district. It can accommodate 10,000 parked vehicles and includes delivery routes for commercial vehicles.

A metro station beneath the Business Gateway Quarter serves as the main hub of Doha’s subway system.

HOK was well into the design of the Business Gateway Quarter when Doha began constructing its metro system in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

HOK collaborated with the metro system planner, Deutsche Bahn, to incorporate a station beneath the Business Gateway Quarter that aligns with the goals and operations of both Qatar Rail and Msheireb Properties.

The Pinnacle of Sustainability

Msheireb Downtown Doha boasts the densest concentration of LEED buildings in the world. All 15 buildings within the HOK-designed Business Gateway Quarter are now LEED Gold certified.

Specific sustainability goals accomplished in the HOK section of Msheireb Downtown Doha include:

  • 22-39% reduction in operational energy across all buildings (31% average per building).
  • 2-6% on-site solar energy generation across all buildings (2% average per building).
  • 36-80% water use reduction across all buildings (61% average per building).
  • 100% reduction in potable water use for irrigation and flushing.
  • Stone and precast exteriors and low window-to-wall ratios minimize solar heat gain within buildings.
  • Retractable shades extend over streets during periods of intense sun.
  • Reclaimed water irrigates public plantings.
  • Orientation and density of buildings maximizes shading on streets and sidewalks.
  • An electric tram reduces traffic and pollution.
A tram system keeps cars off the street and reduces exhaust emissions within Msheireb Downtown Doha.
A rendering of the retractable street shades that can deploy from buildings in the Business Gateway Quarter. Note: The shades were not yet in operation during the initial project photo shoot.
Stone facades and recessed windows minimize solar heat gain. T-shaped windows feature a light shelfs that draws indirect daylight into the building.

Project Credits

HOK’s Washington, D.C., studio led the planning and design of Phase 4 of Msheireb Downtown Doha, with support from HOK’s London, Dubai, Los Angeles, Toronto and Atlanta studios.

Mossessian & Partners provided early schematic design for one of the Phase 4 office towers. Arup, EDAW (since acquired by Aecom), Burton Studio, and Allies and Morrison master-planned the entire 77-acre development. Various architecture firms designed the five districts within the development.

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