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When good design intentions do not meet users expectations : exploring Qatar University campus outdoor spaces

Salama, Ashraf M (2008) When good design intentions do not meet users expectations : exploring Qatar University campus outdoor spaces. ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, 2 (2). pp. 57-77. ISSN 1938-7806

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Investigating the description of the Architect of Qatar University Campus reveals that one of the initial intentions in the design of the campus was to introduce a series of open public spaces and partially covered courtyards, displaying gardens and fountains to create small oases throughout the university. These spaces intended to encourage intellectual and social atmosphere and to provide agreeable surroundings for informal gathering and activities. However, preliminary observations of these spaces show that the original purpose for which they were created seems to be unsatisfied. Strikingly, no attempt has been made to systematically evaluate the performance of these spaces with respect to the use of the university community. Thus, this paper engulfs the issue of design intention versus users’ reactions by conducting a post occupancy evaluation study. It introduces an assessment of the performance of Qatar University-QU campus outdoor spaces from users’ perspective after it has been used and occupied for over 20 years. The assessment aims at understanding the mutual interaction process between the built environment exemplified by the physical characteristics of campus outdoor spaces and the needs of the university community exemplified by students, faculty, and staff. Therefore, the paper argues for the value of evaluating current campus outdoor spaces from users’ perspective. It aims at defining problematic areas related to the utilization of current spaces—that are contrasted with the architect’s design philosophy and intentions—in order to develop a framework for possible future improvements. The methodology adopted is multilayered in nature and incorporates a wide variety of assessment techniques, including walk-through evaluation, observation, behavioral mapping, and questionnaires. The investigation reveals a number of problems that may hinder the performance of different types of QU campus users. The paper concludes that by recognizing how well university campus outdoor spaces respond to the needs of faculty, students, and staff, one can recommend ways of improving the outdoor environment necessary to facilitate the work and learning experiences of different users within the campus and the desired student-faculty interaction.