Forward Thinking on Culturally Urban Imprint in the Contemporary Era Rejuvenating the Traditional Neighbourhood Values and Characters: An Urban Morphology Review on Qatari Cities

Author(s): Harini Septiana; Noora Al Naema; Amna Khalid J A Al-Jaber; Fatma Al Bader; Lolwa M. Alfaya Al Khaldi

Abstract / Introduction (download full article at the bottom)

Most of the cities in the world are witnessing tremendous changes in their urban landscape, over the last half-century. Under the modern planning regime, the spatial layout organization of a city is very much dictated by the ease of motorized movement priority, in order to cope with increased travel demands as a result of the pressing growth of the economy and population. Today, it becomes planning norm that the primary determinants to define a city’s spatial structure are based upon motorized movement patterns, along with other factors such as the population size, urban capacity, and the growing size or scale. The upside of such an approach is that the spatial structure becomes more effective and efficient in accommodating a denser population with their infrastructure service, and in anticipating the future expansion. However, the downside will be the tendency to undermining the ‘people factor’ with their social-cultural life and activities.

Without careful thinking and proper planning, one of the impacts of highly prioritized transport infrastructure in shaping the city spatial structure is the loss of identity. There is a danger of the unique urban culture being diluted and forgotten, leaving ‘a legacy’ of soul-less cities everywhere, with each lacking any distinct personality or character. With more and more cities seeking to enhance their competitive global position through employing cultural strategies in their developments, it is definitely ‘a wake-up call’ for cities that have been busy focusing on their rapid modern developments without wisely maintain their local identity and character. Urban identity needs to reflect cultural and historical values, through modern interpretation and not simply by importing foreign templates.

Therefore, the urban imprint should be recognized as an illustration of a place’s culture and traditions. It demystifies the interaction of the built environment and people with all their values, that work together to define an identity. In this paper, Qatari cities and towns become the study context as they also experience the extreme speed of changes after the discovery of oil and gas in the 1970s, and in the current situation, a globalized language of urbanism has overshadowed the then Qatari’s unique blend of maritime, rural and urban culture. The world of motorways has become dominant over ‘the used to be’ tightly-knitted neighbourhoods with intricate alleyways (sikka) and small public open spaces (barahat).

This paper mainly examines the morphology of traditional neighbourhoods that are still intact in the Downtown Doha area and other old towns (such as Umm Slal Mohammad, Al Wakrah and Al Khor) and seeks the opportunity to capture their key principal characters to inspire the modern spatial layout.

Case study: 55th ISOCARP Congress Presentations
Year: 2019

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