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Evolutionary interventions in search of national architectural identity

Salama, Ashraf M. (2016) Evolutionary interventions in search of national architectural identity. In: AEB 1966-2016. Milano Skira, Milan, Italy, pp. 8-19. ISBN 9788857228808

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During the second half of the 20th century Qatar witnessed its first modern urbanisation period accompanied by rapidly increasing oil production. Today new development strategies have been initiated and implemented to diversify its economy; these have led to a second major urban transformation process. Doha, the capital city of Qatar, has seen rapid growth from a small fishing hamlet in the middle of the 20th century to a vibrant emerging regional urban centre with more than 2.1 million inhabitants. In this essay, I present selected works from AEB that are discussed within the overall urban development process. During the bustling1960s settlement patterns were determined by the development of modern infrastructure such as roads and the supply of fresh water and electricity. Modern public administration, distributed among various buildings throughout the city, was just in its infancy. Despite the introduction of the first public housing law in 1964, planning and regulations still had limited impact on the general development. With Qatar’s independence and in response to rising demands, roads were widened in central areas to provide access by car while the old courtyard buildings were replaced by modern concrete structures made of cement and brick. In order to accommodate expatriate labour as well as Qataris moving from other parts of the country to Doha, new housing areas were developed around the former city boundaries. In this first period of Doha’s urban development incentives such as land reclamation of an area around Doha’s port and the construction of the Al-Corniche Road on the waterfront around the attractive bay would later become defining elements of urban development. Rectangular grid settlement patterns and modern cement buildings added a belt around the old centre and its harbour; these in turn were gradually replaced by modern urbanisation. Thus, Doha’s traditional urban environment faced a rapid decline resulting from first investments in modern infrastructure and the increasing purchasing power of its population. In addition, cars and air-conditioning units further enabled the emergence of a new urban structure with low built densities, extensive road grids and cement block architecture.