The road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has not been smooth. In fact, since FIFA awarded the country to right to host the tournament in 2010, controversy has surrounded the decision. In particular, the country's history with human rights issues—especially related to migrant workers—came to a head in the construction necessary for the games. In 2014, WEEK Architecture decided to shed light on these problems with their Qatar World Cup Memorial. This concept piece is composed of stacked concrete modules that represent the lives of migrant workers killed during the construction of the World Cup stadiums.
Sadly, according to reports in 2021, over 6,500 workers lost their lives since 2010—and that is likely to be a low estimate. The vast infrastructure projects needed to host the games attracted migrant workers from countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Kenya, and the Philippines. This includes the construction of eight stadiums, new hotels, and airport and rail expansions. And according to Amnesty International, migrant workers account for 90% of the workforce.
Looking to escape poverty and unemployment, many even pay steep recruiting fees to get a job in Qatar. This means that they arrive in debt only to face poor working conditions, low wages, and long hours toiling in the heat. Government officials dispute claims attributing these deaths directly to the World Cup and, in 2014, launched a program to improve workers' rights. But many say it's too little too late.
When WEEK Architecture began the project in 2014, they never could have imagined that this imaginary memorial would soar so high. The memorial reached its apex in 2020, with 6,751 concrete blocks for a total of 1,687 levels. Sadly, the death toll is three times higher than the architects estimated when they initially started the project.
“This scandal also questions the responsibility of FIFA,” writes the architecture think tank. “It was not until 2017 that it published an important human rights policy. But FIFA must find the legal means to impose respect for human rights in the host country. Football is the most popular sport in the world and the World Cup is the most unifying event.
“Qatar World Cup Memorial offers families from Nepal, India, and other nationalities a place of remembrance away from the cities and skyscrapers of Qatar.”