Scenes and Speculations from an Emerging City

Created by Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture faculty Kelly Hutzell and Rami el Samahy, with research associates Kristina Ricco, Spencer Gregson, Adam Himes and Blake Lam. Generous support provided by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and Qatar Foundation.

This project investigates the architecture and urbanism of Doha, one of the world's fastest growing — and least examined — cities. A compendium of documentation, analysis, and a range of speculative projects, the book represents five years' study of Doha's built environment. During this period, the city has experienced a massive influx of population, investment and construction. Within this context, the authors explore both the local conditions unique to Doha and its relevance to other emerging global cities.

The work is structured in four parts: first, the growth of the city; second, urban infrastructures and landscapes; third, contested spaces and cultures, as played out in the city’s architecture; and finally, synthesized hybrids, a series of speculative projects proposed for the city and its surroundings. In this way, the project integrates a thorough understanding of the urban development of Doha within a larger discourse on the role of design in the debates about globalization and local identity. All work has been documented or created students at Carnegie Mellon and the research team.

Growth of the City

Growth of the City 2012

Growth of the City 1995

Growth of the City 1977

Growth of the City 1966

Growth of the City 1956

Growth of the City 1947

This project investigates the architecture and urbanism of Doha, one of the world's fastest growing, and least examined, cities. A compendium of documentation, analysis, and a range of speculative projects, the book represents five years' study of Doha's built environment. During this period, the city has experienced a massive influx of population, investment and construction.

Demographics

Demographics

Demographics

Demographics

This project documents and analyzes these conditions, and offers a series of speculative design projects in response. Through the framing of research, analysis and design in a single document, the authors seek to explore both the local conditions unique to Doha and its relevance to other emerging global cities. The project integrates a thorough understanding of the urban development of Doha within a larger discourse on the role of design in debates about globalization and local identity.

Scenes and Speculations from an Emerging City: Doha, Qatar is organized into four sections. The first, "Growth of the City," documents Doha's physical, social and economic evolution in the past half century.

Doha's Skyline in a Decade

Growth of the City: Area and Population

Growth of the City: Timeline

Qatar, 1937

Qatar in the Region

Urban Design

The second section of Scenes and Speculations from an Emerging City, "Urban Design and Infrastructure" examine Dohaʼs city structure, master planning, megaprojects and public spaces.

Doha's City Structure

Status Map

Architecture

The third section of Scenes and Speculations from an Emerging City, "Dohaʼs Architecture," looks at a selection of noteworthy buildings designed for Doha. It also includes an examination of building typologies and elements unique to the city and region. A related web application, titled “4dDoha: Buildings,” can be found by clicking here (while the app can be viewed on a desktop, it is best viewed on an iPad).

4dDoha: Buildings Status

4dDoha: Buildings Style

4dDoha: Buildings Screens

Speculative Projects

The fourth section of Scenes and Speculations from an Emerging City, "Speculative Projects," proposes new buildings and public spaces. The projects offer a response to Dohaʼs unique conditions, while attempting to contribute to the larger discourse on the global state of architecture and urbanism.

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

Contemporary Qatari Tent

A Contemporary Qatari Tent

Original student work by Kristina Ricco, Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture 2009.

In the space of three generations, Qataris have moved from the Bedouin tent to the McVilla. Oil and gas wealth, rapid urban development and the priorities of state security have encouraged a more sedentary lifestyle for the formerly nomadic people. And yet, the desert continues to hold allure; during the cooler months, the landscape is dotted with temporary cities composed of multiple campsites. While the modern tents permit a return to the desert, they have grown bulky and outmoded to their purposes. This project proposes a contemporary tent in keeping with the needs of today that learns from the past.

The modern Qatari’s tent is a far cry from the vernacular mobile domicile. Earlier tents represented a holistic manifestation of a nomadic life; the wool for walls was shorn from the family goats and the weaving techniques passed from one generation to the next.

Today, tents are ordered and delivered to the desert on a flatbed truck, replete with portable toilets, showers, and satellite dishes. If the ancestral tent represented a means of survival, today’s tent is about weekend recreation, and remaining connected to the dunes.

Without romanticizing the past or castigating the present, this project proposes a new Qatari tent that is both more connected to the reasons tents were used in the past and more practical a reaction to the way tents are used today, through its materials and assembly, means of transportation, and methods of aggregation.

The tent is composed of a breathable skin that attaches to a vinyl tarp floor. The skin is composed of a teflon coated fiberglass fabric membrane melded to a flouropolymer membrane, both pre-folded in a herring bone geometry that not only evokes vernacular patterns, but also provides the tent with its structure.

The pattern is obtained by a repetition of reverse folds which are repeated in a line so that the main crease describes a zigzag line. This allows extending and retracting the pattern in two directions. The herringbone nature of the crease pattern is what gives the folded structure its rigidity under load.

Such a system has the added advantage of being easily deployable and collapsable. While Qatari culture is no longer nomadic, the opportunity still exists to utilize the tent as a home in transit. The smaller tent folds down to less than half a cubic meter— just small enough to fit into hand luggage.

A significant part of the contemporary camping culture revolves around “dune-bashing,” which requires the use of a large 4WD vehicle. This is typically a Land Cruiser, Range Rover or Yukon; at any given camp site one might find several parked around the perimeter. The large tent folds down to a cubic meter and is easily placed in the back of one of these vehicles.

The two different tent sizes allow for multiple aggregations, creating camps of various dimension and purpose. They are also easily subdivided; users can create interior space by either setting up partitions or by nesting the smaller tent within the larger. Partitions are hung by clipping fabric dividers into the webbing of the membrane structure.

Thus, the design delivers a tent that is responsive to the needs of its users, much like its vernacular predecessor, but instead reflects an understanding of contemporary culture.

Roundabout Hotel

Roundabout Hotel

Roundabout Hotel

Roundabout Hotel

Roundabout Hotel

Roundabout Hotel

Hotel R/A

Original student work by Lauren Connell, Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture 2009.

At first glance the city of Doha, Qatar appears difficult to read, physically or sociologically, due in no small part to the pace and scale of the changes underway. Nonetheless, certain traits define the city at this moment in time, among the most notable of which is the roundabout, the prevalent car culture, and the iconic and social roles of the city's hotels. This project identifies and celebrates the characteristics that make Doha distinctive by siting a new hotel in the center of a roundabout and whose hotel rooms are accessible to the automobile.

There is no denying it: Doha is not easy to comprehend. Many visitors leave with a superficial and confused understanding of the city. This confusion is not merely attributable to the tourist’s shallow reading; it is truly a confusing place, no matter how one looks at it. Physically, its streets are a network of concentric circles, with vast swathes of the city being built, demolished and rebuilt, making most landmarks temporary at best.

Socially, it can be no less disorienting. While Qatar is an Arab Muslim country, it is among the most diverse places on earth. A visitor would have better chances striking up a random conversation in English, Hindi or Tagalog than in Arabic.

This confusion is largely attributable to the speed and size of the city’s growth, made manifest by an infrastructural and real estate boom of unprecedented proportions that is fueled by the third largest known reserves of natural gas.

Through an examination of Doha’s urban fabric, its history and it current condition, however, distinctive characteristics of the city can be teased out. These are shared among cultures, forming a sense of civic pride and common identity.

Among these characteristics is the roundabout. The city's 192 roundabouts (at last count) constitute significant landmarks in the cityscape and important loci of cultural activity. Often paired with sculptures monumentalizing an aspect of Qatar’s heritage, they become part of a common language in providing direction and reading the landscape. Also, they eliminate the left turn, thus allowing the unimpeded flow of automotive traffic.

Like it or not, cars are also key aspects of this city’s identity. The city revolves around its obsession with the automobile, often at the expense of the pedestrian. There are literally more cars than people in Doha, and the city is designed to cater to them: main streets are wide and well paved, and slip roads provide curbside service for everything from a pack of cigarettes to a roast chicken.

In addition to the roundabout, the hotel also serves as a landmark in Qatar. The hotels are key identifiers in the city, places not only for tourists but also for residents, who frequent the numerous conference centers, wedding halls, restaurants and bars. In Doha, hotels are true icons, and have appeared on postcards and tissue boxes as such.

It is the combination of these distinctive characteristics – the roundabout, the car culture, and the hotels – that make Doha unique. This project embraces all three by designing a hotel in a roundabout in West Bay, the hotel and high-rise district of the the city. Vehicular access occurs via a ramp, thus freeing the ground plane for pedestrians. Guests can drive their cars directly to their rooms (or restaurants), parking them in specially designed car ports. The rooms hang from the building’s main structural elements, and are skinned in screens appropriate to their orientation. As a result, one is left with a design proposal that could only be here, in this time and in this place.