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A dialogical understanding of urban center(s) and peripheries

Salama, Ashraf M (2011) A dialogical understanding of urban center(s) and peripheries. In: Peripheries 2011, AHRA: International Conference of Architectural Humanities Research Association, 2011-10-27 - 2011-10-29, Queen's University Belfast.

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Abstract

A tiny peninsula off of the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies. Doha, the city capital of Qatar, enjoys a multi-cultural society with a population of a little more than one and half million, over 75 percent of which are expatriate professionals and laborers from other countries. Current pervasive development of Doha is characterized by a fast track urbanization process, marked by large scale workplaces, learning and residential environments, cultural facilities, and mixed use developments. Such an urbanization process is creating new urban nodes that are used by different groups for different purposes. While this unprecedented urban growth of the city continues to be a subject of discussion, little attention has been paid to other growth aspects, including the understanding of the resulting residents’ spatial experience and their attitudes toward the new urbanized spaces. This paper aims at interrogating a number of assumptions that pertain to the dialectic relation between the urban center(s) and the peripheries of Doha as perceived and experienced by different groups. It offers a brief analytical, trans-disciplinary conceptualization of urban centers and peripheries and how they have been viewed in the literature by geographers, sociologists, and architects and urban designers (Boyer, 1996; Corniere, 1967; Law, 1988; Lynch and Appleyard, 1990; Prokop, 1967; Scranato, 2006; Silver 2006; Sim, 1982). An investigation of a number of key urban spaces is undertaken through the identification of key urban nodes that are believed to represent centers, peripheries, or emerging centers. Such spaces are identified based on parameters that include density, commercial activity, and public accessibility. The methodology adopted is multilayered and involves analytical description of these spaces in both typological and socio-cultural terms. Based on the notion that urban spaces can be perceived and experienced differently by different cultural groups (Foucault, 1967; Gosztonyi, 1976; Latour, 2005; Lefebvre, 1991; Smith 2005; Stroper, 2008), the methodology is expanded further to establish and implement two photographic based survey tools. In essence, the objective is to investigate the way in which the identified key urban spaces are perceived and experienced by different groups. Results of implementing the survey tools corroborate the assumption that urban spaces in the city center and on the peripheries are perceived and experienced differently by different community groups based on their cultural backgrounds and socio-economic classes. They mean different things to different communities and thus used and utilized differently. The juxtaposition of the results with the understanding of urban centers and peripheries delineates their dynamic nature, invigorating the assumption that urban spaces in the center are not necessarily standing as unique entities. Conclusions, however, indicate that urban spaces on the peripheries are emerging to compete with those in the center. Implications on how future urban spaces in the city are recognized and used are established.