In 2022, when Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup, more than one million visitors are expected to descend on the Middle Eastern country for the month-long sporting event. The peninsular Arab country hosted the annual tournament just last year, in a move many considered to be practice for hosting two years from now. It seems as if they used the trial run wisely and are open to finding ways to improve: Alcohol was banned at the stadium in 2019, but organizers have reportedly said it’s not necessarily out of the question for the future. And beyond beverages, Qatar has embarked on a plan to accommodate the rapid growth in the country’s population during this time by building floating hotels.
As it stands, the small Persian Gulf nation has fewer than 40,000 hotel rooms, so the country has decided to use its proximity to the coast to its advantage by building infrastructure out into the water, rather than on the mainland. These 16 floating hotels, designed by Finnish architectural firm Sigge Architect and built by real estate construction company Admares, will boast 101 rooms each and remain docked on Qetaifan Island North near Lusail International Stadium, the site of the first and final World Cup games. Interestingly, the city of Lusail didn’t exist before 2014 (when Qatar won the hosting bid for 2022), and it cost a whopping $45 billion to build.
The 236-feet-long by 52-feet-wide hotels are sleek examples of contemporary architecture, featuring smooth wood paneling and modern white lines. “These floating hotels are kind of hybrid buildings as the design solutions are a mix of marine and landside building technologies,” says Mikael Hedberg, CEO of Admares Group. “The structure is made out of steel and is built according to marine regulations.” With the Persian Gulf as the location, these alternative dwellings look like minimalist yachts, equal parts function and luxury. In this sense, the four-story floating developments, which each have a restaurant and lounge bar, are a natural addition to the broader architectural language of Qatar—known for both its historical Islamic limestone structures and futuristic skyscrapers.
“These buildings will have their own identity, and the architecture may differ from surrounding buildings. On the other hand, Qatar architectural styles have many, many variations,” says Jani Vahala of Sigge Architects, head architect on the project. “The goal is to represent them as facile, contemporary, and modern buildings in the cityscape.”
Sadly, the construction of other new developments for the World Cup in Qatar has an unsavory history. Beyond the environmental impact of creating thousands of new rooms versus simply holding the sporting event in a country that could accommodate millions of visitors, poor, unsafe working conditions have been reported during construction for the World Cup, according to the Guardian. Migrant workers have died in temperatures that can reach 123 degrees Fahrenheit.
The floating hotels, at least, will be able to be reused post-World Cup. Once there’s no longer a need for 1,616 new hotel rooms, they can be moved. While they are built to float on water, they’re not exactly temporary; thanks to the thoughtfully-chosen materials, these marine hotels are expected to last for 50 years. “The benefit of floating hotels compared to permanent landside buildings is the fact that they can be constructed in a controlled production environment and then delivered to the final location 100 percent completed,” Hedberg says. “There is no need to create a traditional construction site, which often is a burden for the environment. Additionally, these floating hotels can be relocated to any other coastal location in the world after the World Cup.”
So, though the chic, water-friendly hotels will only exist in Qatar for a short time, we’re bound to see them pop up in another beachfront location eager to preserve land area. Says Hedberg: “We are already discussing with several cities around the world who are keen to receive these hotels on their coastline.”