Compared to many of its artificial Gulf neighbors, Doha (or Ad-Dawhah) remains one of the oldest areas in the Persian Gulf to date. Originally a modest fishing village, the area has in more recent years experienced unparalleled growth and a rapid change in its demographic, economic and cultural composition. From the mid-1990s onward, the country shifted from a fishing and pearling based economy into a diverse economy after the discovery of oil in 1939.
Following the rise of Hamad al-Thani in 1995, the Emir quickly endorsed a liberal market economy, catalyzing the Gulf state as one of the most important oil and gas players to date. With the steady flow of income due to its abundance in natural resources, the city has been thoroughly modernized. With emerging plans to revive the city, new ideas arose to re-develop its old downtown. The development and evolution of Doha was planned carefully, taking into consideration its past and future. The rebuilding process included the revitalization of old homes, a fortress, old neighborhoods and lanes. Other areas were demolished, but replaced with modern Islamic architectural concepts. Qatari nationals who had lived in the suburbs were stimulated to return to the city as its development matured. Qatar’s skyline is now riddled with tall buildings containing Arabic architectural designs. At first glance, taking into consideration the 2009 world economic crisis, that move might seem awkward.
However, Philip Oldfield, lecturer in Sustainable Tall Buildings at the University of Nottingham, UK, elaborates on the dramatic change in the skyline. “Only one of the current 10 tallest buildings was completed before 2006, so the other nine were completed in the last five years,” he comments. Oldfield is quick to point out that this is a global trend. “More tall buildings were completed in the first decade of the 21st century than in the whole of the 20th century. It’s fair to say that we’re in a golden age of tall building construction, in spite of the financial crisis. There has been a massive rise in the number of tall buildings thanks to advances in modern structural engineering, and the dramatic forms that are apparent in places like Qatar will continue to appear in the future,” he adds.
Oldfield is adamant that Qatar is not trying to copy Dubai. “Doha has its own identity, and part of that involves a diverse range of architecture in its skyline. Many cities around the world – such as Shanghai, London and Manila – are constructing several high rises. Are they all trying to emulate Dubai? I don’t believe so.” He continues: “Dubai is famous for constructing many towers in a short space of time, so any other city that does this is billed as the ‘next Dubai’.” Maibusch believes that Doha’s skyline is more reflective of the Arab culture than Dubai’s. “When I visited Dubai I felt that the skyline resembled Manhattan as there are a lot of glassy towers. Doha’s skyline also has a modern look, but it is also respectful of Qatar’s culture and history. This is a welcome change from other Gulf cities.
Sources: CTBUH, RF Khalil, K Shaaban