Giulio De Carli, managing partner of Italian architects One Works, explains how the practice’s experience in of interchange design helped it develop a winning concept for Qatar Rail’s Transport Education Centre

Qatar’s Transport Education Centre is an ambitious initiative to change local perceptions of how we get around. The facility, which will combine an exhibition space with educational and recreational facilities, is due to open in 2020 – in time for the FIFA World Cup and coinciding with the roll-out of the country’s metro network.

In December, Qatar Rail awarded the design contract to Italian architects One Works. For the practice’s managing partner, Giulio De Carli, it’s an opportunity to create a landmark building that represents Qatari heritage while embodying a forward-thinking approach. The practice, which integrates architecture, infrastructure and urban engineering, has extensive experience of major transport interchanges, from railway and metro stations to shipping terminals and airports.

The firm has an office in Dubai and was already working on Doha Metro when it was invited it to submit its entry last spring. The initial idea was to open a museum of transport, but De Carli says the
focus soon changed. “Instead, they decided to go for a place where people could meet, to explain how the public transport network will operate in Qatar and across the entire Gulf area,” he says. “Qatar has a mission to educate the population in everything from culture to sport – that’s their attitude.”

While car use in Qatar is currently a necessity – it has no water taxis and its patchy bus service mainly serves male labourers – persuading both expatriates and Qatari nationals to embrace the new metro network will be a vital step towards sustainability.

De Carli adds: “Qatar Rail has a very interesting mission on the transportation side but also for how the new transport mode is presented to the population in Qatar, in this region.”

Multi purpose venue
The centre will be sited between Lusail Boulevard and Al Qassar Metro Station, one of the most important stops on the network. Accessible by metro, car, on bicycle and by foot, it will serve Doha’s central business district of West Bay and cultural hub Katara. Set in landscaped grounds of 20,000 squaremetres (the building itself occupies 10,000 square metres), the cylindrical structure will resemble a traditional Arabian fort, with the traditional wind tower shape offering natural ventilation to complement mechanical modern air conditioning, keeping the space cool and thus minimising energy consumption. The centre will be built predominantly of sandstone, the material traditionally used to build forts on the Arabian peninsula and one that’s used extensively in nearby cultural complex Katara, home to art galleries, Doha Film Institute and Qatar

Philharmonic Orchestra.
“It’s very similar,” De Carli says. “The idea is to have continuity with the Katara landscape.” Each part of the interior will offer panoramic views of its surroundings; the sinuous space will also utilise interactive screens and virtual reality technology. An internal courtyard will house a permanent exhibition, while the landscaped area surrounding the building will house changing displays.
De Carli adds: “For the exhibitions, the idea is to integrate the external and internal areas.”

The internal exhibition space will occupy a horseshoe-shaped area overlooking the courtyard outside. Lighting projections and marks on the walls will delineate it into 24 sections representing the hours of the day. Its main, fort-shaped building will house offices, a theatre and a rooftop restaurant.

Speaking in December, Mohamed Timbely, senior director of Qatar Rail, said: “One Works has perfectly interpreted the spirit and the goal we set for ourselves from the competition’s outset. “Its unique experience in transport infrastructure architecture, combined with its ability to interpret it as a founding and strategic element of urban development and thus social and cultural evolution, allowed the architects to develop a concept for Transport Education Centre that achieves a perfect synthesis of what Qatar Rail is developing for its country and architectural and cultural legacy.”

Tight schedule
One Works must complete the design by the end of this year. In order to hit this daunting target, several teams are working in tandem on the training centre concept, materials, MEP, accessibility and connection with Al Qassar station. The architectural, MEP and civil engineering staff are based in Italy, with other employees based in Doha liaising directly with Qatar Rail.

De Carli says: “We have the main production team in Italy but we also have the local team based in Doha and we do a workshop every two weeks with Qatar Rail to assess the progress of the programme, the brief, and analyse the concept design.

“The idea is that at the end of April the schematic design will be completely approved by Qatar Rail and we will start to develop the detailed design in the summer and to finalise it before the end of November. Then it will tender for the construction by the end of this year in order to start the works at the beginning of 2018. Two years of works and then – by 2020 – an opening with a big exhibition.

“I know perfectly well that it seems a very tight programme and also a crazy schedule, but it’s also realistic. From a technical point of view it’s feasible and Qatar Rail’s motivation is, of course, the hype – because the idea is to open the centre together with the metro, with an exhibition on the metro project.”

De Carli adds: “It’s exciting to work in parallel on metro stations and also on a cultural building
like this. “We had some experience on exhibition buildings but we are mainly experienced in infrastructure – our focus is on areas such as infrastructure build, passenger terminals, stations for rail and metro, the bus, interchange stations, buildings like this.

“We have also a real estate department which is focused mostly on retail and shopping malls, and we often combine our expertise between real estate and infrastructure. So Transport Education Centre is, for us, the perfect integration between the different worlds on which we focus.”