UNStudio to design stations for Qatar’s railway project

Dutch firm UNStudio has been appointed as principal architect for Qatar’s new Integrated Railway Project (QIRP), with the first phase including 35 stations, all designed by the firm and phase 2 to feature another 60.

The project is part of Qatar’s goal to create “a service which encourages the use of public transportation as a valid alternative to private transportation for the population of Doha”.

UNStudio’s metro stations are set to become the “backbone” of the entire public transport system, which is set to comprise of four lines connected the Greater Doha Area (GDA) as well as Al Khor, and Al Wakrah-Mesaieed communities located on the north and south sides of Doha.

The designs for the stations are planned to draw inspiration from the region’s architecture with an added modern element as well as preservation, aimed to bridge a gap between old and new.

UNStudio has, in addition, developed an “Architecture Branding Manual” which includes a set of guidelines, architectural details and material outlines “that will assure the spatial quality and clarity of the network” and will be used by Design and Build contractors to implement and deliver the first phase of the stations.

“The celebration of arriving and departing has always been found in the design of stations,” said Ben van Berkel, founder of the studio. “For the QIRP we devised an adaptive parametric system which creates open, light and welcoming interiors for each of the individual stations.

“Traditional Qatari architectural features are reinterpreted to incorporate new, transformative qualities which capture daylight and direct this into the interiors, creating uplifting and luminous atmospheres.”

One of the concepts that will be explored within the design of the stations is creating varying scales of identity for the user, including line identity, network identity and station identity.

Network identity reflects the overall brand of the Qatar Rail by using recurring design elements that shapes the architecture of the stations as well as offering brand recognition within the urban fabric.

The line identity will be created using different atmospheres within the stations with an individual theme set for each metro line: Historic line, Coastal line, City line, and Education line. These themes will be reflected through distinct wall and floor treatments and material applications that act as a guide for users, taking them on a travelers journey.

The station identity will be displayed through features positioned at strategic points in different areas of each station, and is related to the local context or to the line theme.

“Through the production of a design manual with the use of adaptice parametric design, it has been possible for us to create a design with many variants, yet one which maintains a coherent identity throughout all of the stations,” van Berkel explained.

“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.”

Here are some more features planned for the project by UNStudio:

Vaulted Spaces:

Building upon existing elements found in the architecture of the region, in the architectural branding vision, the ‘Vault’ represents a new referential bridge between Qatar’s historic architecture and culture and its future as a beacon of innovation and prosperity.

Drawing inspiration from the arch, expressions of traditional architecture, the lightness of the dhow sail, and the tensile profiles of nomadic tents, the ‘Vaulted Spaces’ design proposes a contemporary approach to the interpretation and morphological implementation of these elements. Through a system of interconnected triangular base forms, the massing of the geometry adapts and transforms to incorporate programmatic functions and to connect interior spaces with exterior urban infrastructure.


The scale of the Metro intervention in Doha requires careful planning in order to comply with a strict time schedule and achieve minimum disruption in the urban environment. Flexibility becomes a design and planning objective at all levels of intervention. Using a large catalogue of architectural ‘branding’ elements, the design proposal represents a flexible new architectural system which can adapt itself to the scalar challenges set within the Metro Network.

Drawing on innovative construction methodologies and materials, the Qatar Rail architectural identity is designed for an efficient organisation of the production and assembly of elements, resulting in an effective construction site and a high level of quality control. 


The materialisation principles are experienced through a duality of a pure, modest exterior versus a rich, illuminated mother of pearl effect interior. The exteriors reference the monolithic strength of old Qatari architecture, while the interior spaces create a radiant effect of movement and fluidity.

The use of this uniquely Qatari ornamentation and material palette assists in dividing the large interior spaces and guiding pedestrians towards the transient spaces. The integrated light lines amplify the experience, function as natural wayfinding elements and contribute to a unique ambiance for the Metro Network.


Referencing the notion of Caravanserais – which were inns with enclosed courts that served as gathering and resting places on ancient trade routes – and following in the lineage of historic train palaces, the design generates social interaction and propagates place creation over space creation.

Drawing on this tradition of key reference nodes along a travelling route, a sequence of wall attractors within the transient space of pedestrian flows create moments of diversity, opportunities for calmness and gathering and showcases for local culture and identity. 

Urban connectivity: 

Building a new network from scratch provides the opportunity to create a service which encourages the use of public transportation as a valid and clean alternative to private transportation. In UNStudio’s design spatial clarity and intuitive orientation are key components.

Furthermore, the creation of a strong identity for the network will create instant recognition at busy road intersections and will function as a permanent reminder of the alternative to private transportation.
The extensive coverage of the network will make movement within Doha comfortable and convenient. On the local level, Qatar Rail’s network aims to provide safe passage across busy road intersections that serve not only the metro users but the population at large.

With this mission, Qatar Rail’s Metro Network will have substantial impact on the lives of Doha’s population, providing a convenient and practical service, acting as an educational tool on environmental issues and improving road safety and living standards for the community. 





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