Play of Light and Shadow

The Doha Orbital Highway is the large new ring road circling the capital of Qatar, part of the city’s significant expansion program.  Following the intent for all new public space in Doha to be of the highest international standard, Artscape is to be integrated into the Highway.  doxiadis+ in collaboration with KEO were invited to a selective competition for the new highway’s artscape.  We saw an opportunity to look to the essence of Qatari architecture and landscape for the inspiration.

Qatar’s powerful sunlight, and the harshness of the dessert, have created a landscape that is spare, but strongly sculptural.  These sculptural qualities are perceived not in arrays of color, but in the pure, almost black-and-white play of light and shadow.  Qatari traditional architecture is the same.  Simple, powerful shapes, adorned with restrained ornamentation that create shadow patterns.

Our proposal is the play of light and shadow.  Patterns are imprinted into the concrete formwork, and shadow-casting elements are placed in the landscape.  These change perceptually throughout the day, as the sun moves in the sky, and are lit at night, creating constellations of lights, providing contemporary drivers with the very idea that Arab travelers used to navigate by night.  The shadow pattern is not uniform.  Different sections of the highway are characterized by different patterns, while density increases as one approaches intersections.  In this way, the play of light and shadow become way-finding as well as artscape, turning the highway into a unique and meaningful experience.


Doha, Qatar