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Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar

Qatar is lined with impressive buildings and futuristic structures designed by local and world-renowned architects. The country has morphed into a dynamic architectural centre and has undoubtedly introduced a new identity.

Ibrahim M. Jaidah, Group CEO & Chief Architect the Arab Engineering Bureau, talks to us about his inspiring work and uncovers Qatar's architectural scene.

 

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar

Meet Ibrahim Jaidah

I was born in Qatar, in an area near Souq Waqif. At the age of 11-12, I went to a UK boarding school and then studied in the US. I was exposed to various cultures from a young age. I also travelled a lot with my parents, so I saw the world at a young age, and I worked in many places around the world; Asia, Europe, Africa and made Embassies for the State of Qatar. 

Being exposed to all those cultures was invaluable. It does influence the way you see your own culture. By learning new cultures, you get to appreciate your own much more and understand it even better, and this also gives you the ability to convey your own culture to all people visiting.

We all have different backgrounds and cultures, but we can all relate easily. Qatar is a very diversified country with, appreciation of different cultures. The country knows how to welcome the world.

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar

Arab Engineering Bureau (AEB)

Arab Engineering Bureau (AEB) was the very first firm to be established in the State of Qatar, in 1966, the firm got the rights to practice. When I came back from America in the 1990s, the firm was almost closing. I acquired it, and along with my team, we grew it from six people to a 600-people company. I now have a branch in Oman and Manila.

We have been nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, a very prestigious award; it was a great honour. We have won the Arab Towns Organization Award along with the Organization of Islamic Capitals and Cities Award. The firm has also received many other recognitions in the region.

Ibrahim Jaidah's most important projects in Qatar

Regardless of the scale, all of the designs have a special place in my heart, even the small ones. A milestone was one of my high rise buildings, Al Barzan Tower in West Bay, where I mixed modern and traditional elements. This building got a lot of attention, as it was one of the earliest buildings in West Bay. A few more landmarks are Al Sharq Village & Spa; we turned it into an operational five-star resort, the Ministry of Interiors, a statement-building, and the restoration of Doha Fire Station

  • Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
    MARSA MALAZ KEMPINSKI
  • Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
    MARSA MALAZ KEMPINSKI
  • Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
    SHARQ VILLAGE & SPA
  • Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
    BURJ ALFARDAN

It’s a wonderful journey, and each building tells a story. When I see them I remember everything; the challenges, their stories.  

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
Ibrahim M. Jaidah Group CEO & Chief Architect AEB

The architectural journey: from idea to realization

The process starts with the client’s excitement. I let them explain what they have in mind. You need to understand what they need. Then, the inspiration comes from the site itself; is it a project in the desert? Or downtown? 

Afterwards, you need to do deep research and brainstorm with your team. What we always aim to achieve is to come up with ideas that create a feeling. We don’t want to create a “box” that just fits the purpose. Once we tell the client our story, the journey begins. The next steps include dealing with engineering and all mechanical procedures; everything needs to be put together. It’s great, though, witnessing all these people and different teams working together towards the same vision. 

The environment itself inspires me a lot. The challenge that the client gives you, the story you want to tell, the competition… this is the spirit of our work! Have you noticed that some buildings are just “cold”, have no soul? You feel that. We are trying to give them warmth, energy. 

Moreover, a great source of inspiration is the people I meet. You get to know them, and you need to understand them deeply to fulfil their requirements. For example, every time I work on an Embassy building, I first need to understand the nation's culture; it’s truly inspiring. 

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar
Ibrahim M. Jaidah Group CEO & Chief Architect AEB

Al Thumama Stadium

I was fortunate to get an opportunity to compete for this fantastic project among teams from all over the world; the research I had to make, selecting the patterns, working around interior design… it was fascinating. We worked with consultants from all over the world, and that was a beautiful journey, a fun ride! What I felt during the opening day was a feeling I will never forget. 

Challenges and finding new approaches

Let’s go back in time. When I started my practice, people were not used to locals working on architecture and designs. They were used to dealing with architects from all around the world but not from Qatar. It took me a few years to prove that I could do as good as architects from other parts of the world, and even better, as I could also understand the local culture.

One more challenge is running a successful business. You may be very creative when dealing with designs, but running a business is a different story. You have to make a profit, pay the bills, keep your people happy. You need to keep a balance between the emotional and the business approach. 

New technologies, innovation, sustainability, green buildings

The biggest challenge here is to use new technologies smartly. To understand each environment and implement the right technologies.

Sustainability is fundamental, and Qatar has gone a long way in this direction. All our stadiums are sustainable, the water consumption is 40% less than any other city’s stadiums. As a founder of the Qatar Green Council, I must say that we have to be very careful of how we treat the environment. Our priority should be to protect it. Qatar has implemented some great measures on this, on which materials to use, and there are good incentives when a building is green. 

 

"We should all protect our kids and the next generation"

Qatar's current and future architectural scene

Qatar has become a great architectural city that presents masterpieces, such as stadiums, the Pearl, Museums, Msheireb Downtown. It introduces a new architectural language! I believe that architecture and design students can come here and do a tour; our city is making a mark on this field.

The country is developing a lot the city planning; all entities are working towards making Doha a walkable city, with bicycle routes.

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar

My favourite places in Qatar

I love the sea, and I love going to the islands. My go-to places are Al Safliya, the island facing West Bay and Al Aaliya, facing Lusail. I enjoy staying overnight and watching the gorgeous night city views. In Al Aaliya, you can also witness flamingos during their migration. I also enjoy going to the desert. 

Uncovering the architectural scene of Qatar

A story from the old times

I remember our house was next to the Amiri Diwan, and things were so simple back then. During the weekends, we would go to the gardens to play and collect fruits.  

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