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Bri­tish ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice John McAs­lan and Part­ners has com­pleted two schemes within the Her­itage Quar­ter of Msheireb Downtown Doha, which is be­ing billed as the world’s first sus­tain­able downtown re­gen­er­a­tion project.

The new Ju­maa Mosque and the trans­for­ma­tion of a group of his­toric her­itage houses are key el­e­ments in Msheireb Prop­er­ties’ Dhs20.17 bil­lion devel­op­ment, which cov­ers 31 hectares in the cen­tre of the city and also in­cludes the pro­vi­sion of premier of­fice space, re­tail and leisure fa­cil­i­ties, town­houses, apart­ments and ho­tels – as well as civic ser­vices and cul­tural and en­ter­tain­ment venues.

This area has al­ways been the an­chor of re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal power for the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, and the de­sign com­bines Modernism el­e­ments with an his­tor­i­cal ar­range­ment of vol­umes and spa­ces.

Clas­si­cal Is­lamic prece­dent in­forms the dou­ble-square plan form de­sign of the mosque, as well as lo­cal tra­di­tions that have used ori­en­ta­tion, shad­ing, natural ven­ti­la­tion and wa­ter to cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments for prayer.

The per­fect cube build­ing is con­structed of crisp white stone, while metal Is­lamic pat­terned gates en­close the en­trance pav­il­ion and court­yard.

Within the prayer hall a per­fo­rated, pat­terned roof al­lows dap­pled natural light to il­lu­mi­nate the prayer hall, and a colon­nade of stone wraps the court­yard on both sides with a pond cre­at­ing a sense of calm and con­tem­pla­tion.

Re­gional lime­stone has been used as cladding, and Qatari stone acts as ac­cent band­ing to the court­yard floor.

The mosque has been de­signed to Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign (LEED) gold stan­dard, and utilises pas­sive and ac­tive sus­tain­able tech­niques, in­clud­ing so­lar hot wa­ter heaters and pho­to­voltaics.

The stone minaret is cir­cu­lar in sec­tion and ta­pers to­wards the top, re­quir­ing each course of stones to be cut dif­fer­ently to achieve the over­all form, due to its re­duc­ing ra­dius.

Four his­toric houses, mean­while, have been re­mod­elled and ex­tended to ac­com­mo­date state-of-the-art mu­seum en­vi­ron­ments that show­case key el­e­ments of Qatari cul­ture.

The ar­chi­tec­tural re­sponses are spe­cific to the in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments of Com­pany House, Bin Jel­mood House, Mo­hammed Bin Jas­sim House and Rad­wani House – but they also share a com­mon thread that en­sures a co­he­sive vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence.

The ar­chi­tects stated that cre­at­ing mu­se­ums within ex­ist­ing build­ings “is al­ways chal­leng­ing, re­quir­ing a foren­sic un­der­stand­ing of orig­i­nal build­ing fab­rics” and the way th­ese struc­tures re­late to their en­vi­ron­ment.

Key in­ter­ven­tions, en­abling them to op­er­ate as mod­ern at­trac­tions in terms of cir­cu­la­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tion­ing, in­cluded en­clos­ing a num­ber of pre­vi­ously ex­ter­nal court­yards and pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Re­spect also had to be paid to the age of Google and the iPad, with in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tion dis­plays help­ing bring his­tory to life, com­mu­ni­cat­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, arte­facts and mean­ings of the past to a 21st-Cen­tury au­di­ence.

Clear dis­tinc­tions have been made be­tween his­toric orig­i­nal fab­ric and new build, cre­at­ing a clar­ity to the ar­chi­tec­tural lan­guage of the project.

The over­all ob­ject of the en­tire Msheireb project is to re­verse the pat­tern of devel­op­ment in Doha, which up to now has been based on iso­lated land use and a re­liance on the car for trans­porta­tion and en­ergy-hun­gry struc­tures.

It is hoped that the Her­itage Quar­ter will be­come a new so­cial and civic hub in the city cen­tre, with ve­hi­cles and tra­di­tional ser­vices be­ing strate­gi­cally placed un­der­ground in sev­eral base­ment lev­els to en­sure a pedes­trian-friendly at­mos­phere.

A ded­i­cated tramway will also serve the project.

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