A sacred landscape: the Msheireb Prayer Ground

Allies and Morrison’s design for the Eid prayer ground at Msheireb Downtown Doha has won a highly coveted award for religious architecture. The project has received the 2017 Faith & Form International Award for Sacred Landscape. The Sacred Landscape Award is intended to recognise the use of landscape and man-made materials to create outdoor environments conducive to prayer, meditation, or transcendence.

The Msheireb Prayer Ground design evolved from the contrast between the purity of the sacred space and the incidental character of the site. The project reinstates Doha’s oldest Eid prayer ground located beside the historic fort and souk in the heart of the city, providing a sacred space for thousands of worshippers, edged by a variety of threshold and support spaces within the thickness of its perimeter walls.

The architectural language of the prayer ground was developed from an understanding of the Qatari vernacular and the design delicately balances a sense of openness and enclosure in response to its cultural context. The Qibla Wall, indicating the orientation to Mecca, is inscribed with a Koranic Ayah by master calligrapher Sabah Arbilli, while the Mihrab is lined with gold mosaic tiles that capture the early morning light of the twice-yearly Eid prayers.

Msheireb Downtown Doha is a 31-hectare, climate-conscious redevelopment project which seeks to re-introduce a walkable, compact urbanism to the region. Developed by Msheireb Properties, a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation, the project was masterplanned by Arup, Aecom and Allies and Morrison. The Msheireb Prayer Ground is one of 16 projects designed by Allies and Morrison, currently completed or under construction within the masterplan.

The Annual Religious Art and Architecture Design Awards program is co-sponsored by Faith & Form Magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA), a knowledge community of the American Institute of Architects. The awards program was founded in 1978 with the goal of honouring the best in architecture, liturgical design and art for religious spaces. The programme offers five primary categories for awards: Religious Architecture, Liturgical/Interior Design, Sacred Landscape, Religious Arts, and Unbuilt Work.