x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Doha project prizes spirit of old city

Qatar Foundation has separated itself from the mass of new buildings rising in Doha by focusing on its architecture.

When Dohaland decided to begin work on a project to revive the old city, it initially left the cranes and bulldozers idle.

Instead, the company sent out a request for proposals to about 100 architecture businesses around the world asking how Qatar could create its "own language" of architecture that took in the past and the future of its capital city.

"We wanted to distinguish ourselves from the other by creating an architectural language that restores the identity back to the region," said Issa al Mohannadi, the chief executive of Dohaland.

The respondents were cut down to a handful that came up with "phrases", or characteristics, that could be woven into any project design. These architects included Adjaye Associates, Allies and Morrison, and Dar al Omran.

The Heart of Doha was born of these efforts. Still under construction, the project is to include US$5.5 billion (Dh20.2bn) worth of municipal buildings, housing, offices and boulevards lined with shops - all crafted with Qatari architectural features that hearken back to Doha's old days as a pearl-diving centre.

Likewise, the new Cultural Village reflects the increased interest in a blend of new and old. The streets are shaded by canopies, and small street-side water canals help to cool the breezes.

The 99-hectare area includes mosques, a pigeon tower and an amphitheatre that recently hosted celebrities as part of the Doha Film Festival.

In West Bay, also known as the Diplomatic District, there are towers that fit more into the Dubai school of architecture: big, brash and challenging to build.

And like all Gulf countries, Qatar aspires to build some of the world's tallest structures. The Doha Convention Centre Tower, shaped like an obelisk, would rise about 400 metres.