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Urban evolution of the city of Doha : an investigation into the impact of economic transformations on urban structures

Wiedmann, Florian and Salama, Ashraf M. and Thierstein, Alain (2012) Urban evolution of the city of Doha : an investigation into the impact of economic transformations on urban structures. METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, 29 (2). pp. 35-61. ISSN 0258-5316

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Abstract

During the second half of the 20th century Qatar has witnessed its first urbanisation period, which was linked to the rapidly increasing oil production. Today, new development strategies, which have been implemented to diversify its economy, have led to a second urban transformation process. Concomitantly, Doha has witnessed its rise from being a small fishing village community in the middle of the 20th century to an emerging regional urban centre with more than 1.5 million inhabitants. This paper offers an exploratory analysis of the urban evolution of Qatar's capital city Doha based on Henri Lefèbvre's theory of space production. The paper explores different stages of economic transformation that have had a large impact on the structure of the city's society as well as its built environment. It also analyses, the most recent transformation process that began at the end of 20th century as a result of a rapidly growing real estate development generated by liberalisation policies and public investments. In order to understand the future impact of current economic development strategies, the city's past urbanisation stages and their spatial development factors are outlined through different periods - from the pre-oil settlement, to oil production, to liberalization and economic diversification strategies. The analysis of different stages manifests that each urbanization period was driven by a specific economic activity and was based on key governance and planning strategy with a particular impact on the urban structure and architecture. The paper concludes by relating the evolutionary process of the city to the challenges facing its future urban environment so that responsive strategies for liveability and quality of urban life can be envisioned and implemented.