Ben van Berkel: Doha Metro Network

Qatar Rail has appointed UNStudio as the principal architect for the Qatar Integrated Railway Project (QIRP). The Metro Network, the key component of the QIRP – with phase 1 planned to include around 35 stations and phase 2, around 60 stations – will serve as the backbone of the public transport system in the Greater Doha Area (GDA). The full network is planned to comprise four lines connecting the GDA as well as Al Khor, and Al Wakrah-Mesaieed communities located north and south of Doha respectively.

The goal of the QIRP is to create a service which encourages the use of public transportation as a valid alternative to private transportation for the population of Doha. Since its appointment UNStudio has developed an ‘Architectural Branding Manual’, a set of design guidelines, architectural details and material outlines that will assure the spatial quality and clarity of the network. The manual will be used by the appointed D&B contractors to implement and deliver the stations of the first phase.

Ben van Berkel / UNStudio designs over 30 stations in the first phase of the Doha Metro Network

UNStudio’s design forms a bridge between the past and the future of Qatar, drawing inspiration from the vast regional architectural lexicon, whilst simultaneously representing an effective vision of modernisation and preservation. The design further aims to incorporate and integrate all functional and technical aspects of the stations and network into a coherent architectural expression with a view to making the Qatar Rail Metro Network a world reference in the service provided by public transportation to the users and to the environment.

Ben van Berkel: “The celebration of arriving and departing has always been found in the design of stations. 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.

Scales of Identity
A key concept within the design is one of creating varying scales of identity for the user: network identity, line identity and station identity. Network identity reflects the overall Qatar Rail brand using recurring design elements that will shape the architecture of the stations consistently throughout the network and will offer brand recognition with Doha’s urban fabric.
Line identity is achieved by creating different atmospheres within the stations for the theme of each of the metro lines (Historic line, Coastal line, City line and Education line) through distinct wall and floor treatments, as well as through material applications that orient and guide the travellers through their journey.
Individual station identity is achieved by displaying features positioned at strategic points in different areas of each station. The content of these features is specific to each station and is related to the local context and/or to the line theme. By integrating curated content throughout the stations, the Metro Network will serve as a cultural vehicle for Doha.

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.

Ben van Berkel: “Through the production of a design manual and with the use of adaptive 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. 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.

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 ambience 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.

lient: Qatar Railways Company
Location: Doha, Qatar
Programme: ‘Qatar Integrated Railway Project’ (QIRP), presently under development by the Qatar Railways Company (RAIL), comprises a complete railway system, consisting of 4 Metro Lines with approximately 100 stations.

UNStudio: Ben van Berkel, Astrid Piber with Nuno Almeida, Arjan Dingsté and René Rijkers, Marianthi Tatari, Juergen Heinzel, Rob Henderson, Jaap-Willem Kleijwegt, Tom Minderhoud and Wael Batal, Thomas van Bekhoven, Ergin Birinci, William de Boer, Eric Caspers, Leonhard Clemens, Bas Cuppen, Gokcen Dadas, Eric Eelman, Giacomo Garziano, Ger Gijzen, Albert Gnodde, Ricardo Guedes, Maud van Hees, Maarten Heinis, Lars van Hoften, Marc Hoppermann, Sebastian Janusz, Nemanja Kordić, Dennis Krassenburg, Samuel Liew, Guomin Lin, Alberto Martinez, Gerben Modderman, Patrik Noome, Maurizio Papa, Bruno Peris, Clare Porter, Attilio Ranieri, Thys Schreij, Georgios Siokas, Luke Tan, Yi-Ju Tseng, Menno Trautwein, Gerasimos Vamvakidis, Laertis Vassiliou, Sander Versluis, Philip Wilck, JooYoun Yoon, Martin Zangerl, Meng Zhao, Jennifer Zitner, Seyavash Zohoori.

Structure, MEP: RHDHV
Facade engineering: Inhabit
Lighting engineering: ag licht
Wayfinding: Mijksenaar
Passenger flow analysis: MIC – Mobility in Chain
Fire and life safety: AECOM

Design and Architecture in nhow Berlin

External clean lines, brick work and stainless steel facades, and a 36 metre section suspended above the water – interior colour bliss, round forms and art work. In the nhow Berlin the architecture of Sergei Tchoban and the interior design of Karim Rashid reflect the contrasts and creativity of the location.

The music and lifestyle hotel nhow Berlin lies on the banks of the river Spree in the ‘Osthafen’ (East Harbour) area. The site where trading posts once stood during the height of industrialisation, and goods were loaded onto ships with huge cranes, is now home to one of the most creative and lively neighbourhoods of the capital. Businesses predominantly from the fashion and music industries have settled here alongside the numerous bars and clubs. Contrasts are also visible in the signatures of those responsible for the design of the nhow Berlin: the clear, hard lines of Sergei Tchoban of NPS Tchoban Voss, architect BDA, meet the colour and formal bliss of the New York designer Karim Rashid.

The Architecture
The architecture of the nhow Berlin is most accessible when seen from the river. To the sides the East and West Towers take on elements of the pre-existing adjacent storage buildings with their uneven brick facades, while the centre of the Upper Tower (floors 8 to 10) appears to float at a height of 36 metres over the Spree. At this point architect Sergei Tchoban approached the limits of that which is structurally possible, the Upper Tower protruding 21 metres out from the building over the banks of the Spree. The best chances to appreciate this are offered as the sun reflects off the aluminium facade in the morning and evening. The view from the rooms behind the facade is no less impressive – on the Spree side the building consists of a glassed double-skin facade. Equally thrilling views are to be seen from the ten metre wide river-side promenade or the spacious terrace on the river-bank side of the building: clad in reflective stainless steel panels, it offers beautiful reflections, changing with the aylight. The public areas of the hotel – the lobby, reception, restaurant, bars and conference area, are located on the ground and first floors. Panorama windows allow views both in and out of the building, making the hotel part of public space. The partly glassed roof of the reception area offers views of the underneath of the Upper Towers, floating above it. The 304 rooms and suites, ranging from 22 to 260 metres, are located in the 10 further floors of the hotel.

The interior design
Upon stepping into the nhow Berlin, one becomes part of the poetic, colourful, almost surreal world of Karim Rashid. The work of the New York designer has won many design awards and been exhibited in large museums across the world, from the Museum of Modern Art to the Centre Georges Pompidou. Karim’s vision is a radical design movement, calling for a break with old ways of looking and living, and the creation of a world free from nostalgia: ‘My vision engages technology, visuals, textures, colour, as well as all the needs that are intrinsic to living in a simpler less cluttered but more sensual environment. Design touches us on every level, and design can continue to define and shape our dimensional interior environments and create new progressive human behaviors and new languages. I always question whether the physical world is as experiential, as seductive, as connective, as inspiring, as personalizable, and customizable as the digital world.” ‘Infosthetic’, along with ‘blobject’ and ‘technorganic’, is one of the many word creations with which Karim describes his design principles. He wishes to reflect, comment on and visualise the information age with his design. Karim’s digital and energetic designs infuse the whole building, from the lift area, to the wall paper in the halls, through to the floor coverings in the rooms. Through this singularity of design the designer creates an environment that inspires – as does the city, in which the nhow hotel calls home.

Lobby, bar, restaurant and conference area
Upon entering the lobby, guests step into Karim Rashid’s creative vision: the check-in counters are custom-made fibre glass objects, with amorphous forms typical for the designer. A field of lighted elements, reminds the observer of gently sloped hills. The flooring consists of printed ceramic tiles, with a motif representing the digital data that surrounds us, supports us and speaks for us. Subdued colours and soft curves create a sensual atmosphere in the lounge. Those seeking a quiet and intimate atmosphere can find it in one of the smaller lounges, separated with glass walls. Projections, the sculptural ceiling of liquid-like plastic, and indirect lighting create a relaxed mood.
The nhow hotel bar is unmissable: the bar itself is made of gold-lacquered fiberglass and the seating of voluptuous, organic and ergonomic formed couches and lounge chairs flank the bar. Custom made benches correspond with the ceiling scultpures hanging above them, while transparent curtains with typical Rashid ‘digipop-design’ tint and transform the view of the Spree. The bar leads into the restaurant of the nhow Berlin. Pastel colours, abundant daylight with the large window surfaces and organic-formed light installations ensure a friendly, lively mood. Lacquered fibreglass and glass objects in the centre of the room serve as buffet surfaces or art objects, as required. Form and function are juxtaposed on an even footing, without the need for competition. The seating is equally flexible, either connected to one another in a communicative way, or positioned around small tables for more intimacy. Communication combined with flexibility are the core requirements of the meeting and event area. Karim Rashid has imbibed this area with sculptural seating groupings and Murano lamps of his own design, offering warm light.

The rooms
In the rooms of the hotel it was important for the designer to, alongside high functionality, inspire the fantasy and creativity of the guests. The rooms of the East Tower are kept in warm gold and exhilarating pink tones from sunrise and sunsets. Cooler grey, blue and pink tones dominate the rooms of the West Tower. The rooms of the Upper Tower are found high above the Spree, which, with their balanced colour scheme, offer a relaxing effect. Rashid’s ‘digipop’ design is present in all rooms, featured on the headboards and thought of by the designer as the starting point for imaginative dreams. The flooring consists of printed, recycled laminate. In the standard rooms the IP-televisions are integrated into a mirrored wall object, and remain invisible when switched off. The mirrored object serves simultaneously as a storage space and desk. The bathrooms are separated with glass walls, which allow daylight to pass through. However, they are also tinted, meaning that they are not visible from the sleeping area. Attention grabbers in the junior suites comes in the form of the rounded partitions with built-in lighting, which separate the sleeping and living areas. The built-in, rotating television can be positioned so that the guest always has the best possible view, whether from the bed, sofa or the custom built fibreglass desk.

nhow Berlin and NH Hoteles
Design, art and above all music define the nhow Berlin, which lies in the East Harbour on the River Spree. The interior design of the music and lifestyle hotel, with 304 rooms and suites, carries the signature of star designer Karim Rashid, while the architect is Sergej Tchoban. Unique for a European hotel is the nhow Music Sound Floor: above the rooftops of the capital music producers can find two world-class sound studios. Nhow represents a new generation of hotels, developed by NH hotels; unconventional, positive, life-affirming, constantly in motion, locally based and at home in the world. Berlin is the second hotel of the brand after the opening of the nhow Milan in 2006.
NH Hoteles ( ranks third among European business hotels, and is known for both its quality and service standards, as well as the attention to detail in the facilities, restaurants and technology. The NH Hoteles are particularly aimed at business travellers. A particular strength for the company are the restaurants, as revealed by the cooperation with the Spanish chef Ferrán Adrià, founder of the restaurant El Bulli. Adrià has created new F&B concepts exclusively for NH Hoteles. NH Hoteles is conscientious in its responsibilities towards the society and environment in the tourism industry. It offers hotel services which anticipate present and future needs of both our internal and external stakeholders (employees, clients, shareholders, suppliers, and the environment), the communities where we operate and future generations with maximum possible regard to efficient and sustainable solutions. NH Hoteles is listed on the Madrid Stock Exchange.