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Demystifying Doha

On Architecture and Urbanism in an Emerging City
Ashraf M. Salama and Florian Wiedmann

Imprint: Routledge -- Illustrations: Includes 124 b&w illustrations -- November 2013 -- Format: 244 x 172 mm - Extent: 276 pages - Binding: Hardback

ISBN: 978-1-4094-6634-5 - ISBN Short: 9781409466345

Over the past decade or so, the wealth produced by Qatar's oil and gas exports has generated a construction development boom in its capital city of Doha and the surrounding vicinity. Since the late 1990s, the number of inhabitants has grown from less than 400,000 to more than 1.7 million today. In many respects, Doha is portrayed as an important emerging global capital in the Gulf region, which has been positioning and re-inventing itself on the map of international architecture and urbanism, with a global image of building clusters of glass office towers, as well as cultural and educational facilities.

While focusing on the architectural and planning aspects of Doha's intensive urbanization, this first comprehensive examination of the city sets this within the socio-political and economic context of the wider Arabian Peninsula. 'Demystifying Doha - On Architecture and Urbanism in an Emerging City' features a comprehensive discussion on contemporary architecture and urbanism of Doha as an emerging regional metropolis. It provides a critical analysis of the evolution of architecture and urbanism as products of the contemporary global condition. Issues that pertain to emerging service hubs, decentralised urban governance, integrated urban development strategies, image-making practices, urban identity, the dialectic relations between the city and its society and sustainable urbanism are all examined to elucidate the urban evolution and the contemporary condition of Doha. 'Demystifying Doha - On Architecture and Urbanism in an Emerging City' concludes by suggesting a framework for future studies of the city as well as for investigating the future of similar cities, setting out an agenda for sustainable urban growth, while invigorating the multiple roles urban planners and architects can play in shaping this future.

Preface; Introduction: globalisation and the emerging city; Overview of architecture and urbanism in the Arabian peninsula; The urban evolution of Doha: from a vernacular settlement to an emerging service hub; Contemporary urbanism in Doha: from decentralised governance to integrated urban development strategies; Contemporary architecture and image-making practices in Doha; Dynamics of population and the urban environment of Doha; The challenges of sustainable urbanism and the future of Doha; Conclusion: introducing an analytical framework for emerging Doha; bibliography; Index.

‘The authors provide an authoritative account of the development of Doha in the context of the rapid growth of Arabian Gulf cities. The book identifies the social and cultural changes associated with this growth and its positive and negative impact on the city of Doha. Such unbridled growth as seen in Doha can have deleterious consequences as the authors clearly identify. They propose the need for an urban development vision that integrates social, cultural and economic factors. Consequently, this book is a necessary guide for Doha’s decision makers in the public and private sector as well as design and planning educators and professionals. Although Salama and Wiedmann focus on the Arabian Peninsula they develop a unique investigative approach relevant for the study of other regions as well.’
Henry Sanoff, North Carolina State University, USA

‘The book gives a comprehensive overview of the urban and architectural development of the Arabian Peninsula but in particular about the rapid growth of Doha. It offers a profound documentation of the urban structure and environment as well as the architectural forms of the city, while introducing significant knowledge on an area, which is often not well considered by international professionals planning in the metropolis. Salama and Wiedmann concentrate not only on Doha, Qatar and the Arabian Peninsula but also analyze the evolution of architecture and urbanism as products of contemporary global trends in governance, development strategies, image-making and the human encounters with the city. Demystifying Doha is a valuable source for every planner and architect working in Doha as well as those working in neighboring countries of the Arabian Peninsula.’
Albert Speer, Albert Speer and Partners GmbH, Germany


Salama and Wiedmann offer a far-reaching examination of the city of Doha within the larger context of the Arabian Peninsula. While their main focus is on the evolution of the city and its morphological transformations, they successfully map such evolution to socio-cultural, economic, and environmental aspects that characterized the growth of the city. Addressing the institutional environment in which decisions are made, the book highlights important aspects of urban governance. Discussing the multifaceted aspects of sustainable urbanism, the authors propose a framework for future investigations in similar contexts. The inclusive nature of the book makes it a necessary reading for policy makers, academics and professionals in architecture and urban planning. This is a great addition to the library of architecture and urbanism in the Middle East.
Attilio Petruccioli, Qatar University and Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy.

Press Coverage of Demystifying Doha

Gulf Times; November 19, 2013:

The Peninsula Qatar; November 19, 2013:

Alraya Newspaper; iNews Arabia; November 19, 2013:

Press Release
DOHA: Qatar University (QU) has launched a new book that explores the evolution of Doha from a tiny fishing village to an emerging regional metropolis.

The book Demystifying Doha: On Architecture and Urbanism in an Emerging City is authored by QU professor of architecture and chair of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning (DAUP) Dr Ashraf Salama and Dr Florian Wiedmann, research fellow at the department, and published this month by Ashgate Publishing, UK. Product of a three-year effort (2010-2013), the book was partially funded by a grant from the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) under the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). At 276 pages, the book looks at the pre-oil picture of Doha rooted in the desert, tribal tradition and the sea, and follows its urban evolution from vernacular settlement to an emerging service hub.

It goes on to discuss the decentralisation of urban planning and the implementation of an holistic urban development vision in Qatar, regional pressures and global influences, and the advent of urban space diversity in
Doha. Further, the book considers the economic consequences and potential environmental challenges, and provides an outlook for sustainable urbanism in Doha. The authors conclude with a theoretical discourse on space production
and an analytical framework for investigating the production of urban qualities in the city.

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Salama and Wiedmann explained that Demystifying Doha investigates the complex nature of the city’s contemporary urban structure by exploring its evolution from a tiny fishing village to a
major regional and international hub. “

Salama noted the timeliness of the book’s publication in a period when Doha is burgeoning with construction, development and re-generation projects but a lack of in-depth debate on architecture and urbanism in the rapidly growing city.
“This book we hope will begin the dialogue and prompt questions and solutions on the future direction of urban development in Doha and in growing cities in the GCC and Middle East region”, he said.

Wiedmann said: “We hope to expand the research to include parameters that enable future comparisons with other Gulf cities now that we have introduced the preparatory discussions that highlight the various interdependencies between the built environment and emerging society of Doha”.

Reviewers from North Carolina State University, the US, Albert Speer & Partner, Germany, and Polytechnic University of Bari, Italy, have called Demystifying Doha “a necessary guide for Doha’s decision makers in the public and private
sector as well as design and planning educators and professionals,” a “valuable source for every planner and architect working in Doha as well as those working in neighbouring countries of the Arabian Peninsula”, and “a great addition to the library of architecture and urbanism in the Middle East”.