Embassy of Qatar, Brussels.Design philosophy.

Positioning and organisation.

The Embassy building is conceived around an inner courtyard that can be shielded off to create a year round comfortable climate. The footprint of the Embassy is 900m2 roughly, that is a 750m2 floor area extended with 150m2 inner courtyard, which then fits within the building regulations.The building consists of two levels above ground. Locally the garden slopes down to reveal part of the basement also, in order to attract light, and integrate side entrances.At the far side of the building lot, reachable along the Victoria Street, the Consulate is accommodated in a freestanding [...]building.

Inside the Embassy circulation evolves around the open courtyard. Staircases and elevator(s) are fit in appropriately. A possibility is that the main elevator goes down to the garage in the basement, so that occasionally access can be granted from here also.Subsequently we introduced a certain hierarchy in the organisation of spaces. The administrative cum public functions are gathered along the street sides facing northwest. The lot of more private functions (Suites) is gathered along the garden side of the Embassy building, facing southeast.This organisation of spaces is made readable in the setup of façades. The façades along the street side evoke more stature in theirclear vertical or horizontal lines. At the garden side the façade obtains a more playful, mansion-like character with more and smaller wall segments jumping in and out.Although the Embassy forms a homogenous building, the Ambassador's Suite stands out in the organisation of spaces and the articulation of the façade. Balconies allow for a closer contact with the garden.The two Lounges sit above each other and are situated between inner courtyard and garden. They are fully glazed at opposite sides of the rooms, so that indoor/outdoor activities can be organized by opening (all) the doors.The overall ground floor sits one meter above street level in order to give the Embassy more posture. The lobby andwaiting arrangements are kept on street level; such makes the entrance hall higher. The barrier between public and private, by going a few steps up, is situated there where the inner courtyard begins. At that spot, also we have brought in two staircases left and right of the courtyard so that circulation can discretely differentiate between personnel and guests.We took the opportunity to interconnect the middle landing of the two staircases, and extend it into a smaller roundabout cum mezzanine that looks into the lobby from above and onto the main street. It also gives access to more storage room.

Room atmosphere.

The free height of the overall spaces is3,5 meters. We took special care in designing the ceilings. A typical Brussels' phenomenon would be to finish the ceilings of rooms with freezes; being decorative plaster work.The programme speaks of incorporating wooden bay windows as traditional architectural Qatari elements.We have tried to link up both ideas in constructing a ceiling entirely made up of a wooden framework and cut out vaults.Geometrical concept: Lines depart from two points located outside the Embassy building and define, as they cross, diamond shaped grates that change from small to large. Supplementary connections within yield then a kind of 'palm tree structure' that opens up to the garden on the moment that the grates growsmaller.Thus the wooden ceiling conceals a dynamics, which is superimposed on the arrangement of spaces beneath. It allows us to shift rooms out of a too rigid orthogonal grid. Likewise we could orchestrate jumps in the façade, align windows and doors at the pace of the ceiling, adjust the Embassy building with the curved Victoria street.Last but not least, the ceilings come in two variations. On ground floor level domes are cut out locally, one per room. On the first floor vaults are lined up in tubes, that run from street to garden, and open up accordingly to the palm tree structure. The ceiling incorporates a gulf movement. The fronton or frieze in the front façade reveals then these vaultsbehind.In the freestanding Consulate the same logic is pursued but carried out on a smaller scale.
Our main effort comes down to creating spacious rooms that are finished by a sophisticated ceiling that varies endlessly. Qatari motives are (in) the structure.
Exterior walls are cladded with white limestone. To some extend floors (and socles) could be carried out in Belgian blue stone and could also carry geometric patterns that interact with the domed ceiling above.