www.Q-urbarch.org is an online resource that outlines efforts undertaken as part of key research projects. The site includes links to research publications, different types of information of interest to architects, urban designers, and planners who are seeking to expand their knowledge on architecture and urban environment of the Middle East.

Last updated -- May 2019. No further updates will be made to this site.

Knowledge Economies and Urban Qualities

Research on Urban Qualities and Emerging Knowledge Based Economies in the Gulf

Who we are?
The National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) is an initiative of the Qatar National Research Fund and sponsors research projects. This NPRP project was initiated by Qatar University and was awarded at the end of 2010 for a duration of three years. The inter-disciplinary and international research team was coordinated by Professor Ashraf M. Salama as Lead Principal Investigator, who joined an academic collaboration with Professor Alain Thierstein as Co-Principal Investigator from the Technical University of Munich. Dr. Florian Wiedmann was in charge of the project management and joined Qatar University. Other academics were involved in the research process in order to provide a wide range of expertise covering a range of disciplines from urban economics to governance and from spatial planning and urban design to urban geography. With valuable support from the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, key information and technical data were gathered and analyzed to contribute to the overall mission of the project.

This research outcomes of this project aim to deliver in-depth insights into the various mechanisms of urbanism in an emerging city, whose development is mainly driven by mega projects and property-led development in establishing new knowledge economies to gain independence of fossil fuels. Due to the very particular roots of Gulf cities and the focus on Qatar's capital Doha, four key objectives can be pursued. All four objectives are needed to provide a multi-dimensional view on the interdependencies between economic and spatial transformation processes:

1) The investigation of how urban governance evolved historically and how urban governance is structured today: Urban governance has a direct impact on urban transformation processes by introducing new public investment strategies as well as a new development vision and subsequent physical planning. The project aims to analyse the various forms how urban governance is rooted in Qatar and how it is transforming to accommodate the new challenge to establish a diversified economy including the introduction of new master planning efforts.

2) The investigation of how companies establish networks within their local surroundings, the region and worldwide: The new knowledge economies have led to a complex network of multi-branch companies, which have established their offices in Doha. In order to understand the local, regional and global connectivity of the new economic sectors, the various networks need to be analysed. Based on these network analyses the various degrees of connectivity can be explored, which is a main indicator for the current state of economic transformation in Qatar.

3) The investigation of how the emerging ‘creative class’ uses and perceives their urban surroundings: Due to the investment into establishing new economic sectors in addition to the subsequent construction boom a large number of highly educated migrants have moved to Doha. This new socioeconomic class is very decisive to redefine urbanism in an emerging city. The research project thus aims to examine how this new social group is living in Doha and how individuals perceive their new surroundings depending on cultural backgrounds. Moreover, the project aims to understand how public spaces are used by this expanding migrant group.

4) The investigation of how spatial structures have been transformed to accommodate the needs of companies and inhabitants as well as the high urban growth rate itself: In addition to the various factors defining urban development, the project aims to deliver insights into the spatial dimension of urban growth as well as the very particular redefinition of new urban centres and their spatial accessibility in order to adjust to new economies and their spatial practice.

Based on Henri Lefebvre's theory of space production, the research team developed a framework to analyze and evaluate each factor impacting spatial transformation processes. In essence, Lefebvre’s approach of space production has been utilized to explore the inter-dependencies of recent economic diversification and the changing structure of new urban environments. The framework involves comprehensive analyses of urban planning decision making processes as well as in-depth investigation that applies interlocking network models to examine how urban structures are currently used by companies of knowledge intensive economic sectors. Taking into account the importance of the role played by the employees working in these companies and their perception of contemporary urban space in the city, the framework employs empirical research techniques that involve survey studies, focused interviews, observation, and behavioral mapping. In addition to investigating the various factors driving spatial transformation, the evolutionary aspects of a city’s urban structure were traced and analyzed using GIS data and space syntax studies.

A theoretical framework of the production of urban qualities (Wiedmann and Salama, 2014)

The research outcomes aim to serve both professional and academic interests to gain new insights into the current urban transformation in the Gulf and to introduce new tools to analyse urban qualities worldwide. Today, the establishment of livability has become a major challenge due to the increasing dependency on growth strategies instead of consolidation policies. Thus, the project is intended to help decision-makers and planners to identify each factor that inhibits the development of urban qualities. In addition, it seeks to contribute to international research focusing on interdependencies of knowledge economies and built environment in the case of emerging cities. The academic community is therefore provided with new data and empirical studies about current economic diversification processes and their relations to the evolution of urban space. Subsequently, the project can serve as basis for the on-going debate on how planners and decision-makers can optimize urban development to attract and foster knowledge based economies.

Research Team
Prof. Dr. Ashraf M. Salama, Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Lead Principal Investigator
Prof. Dr. Alain Thierstein, Department of Spatial Planning, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Co-Investigator
Dr. Florian Wiedmann, Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Project Manager

Research Assistants
Velina Mirincheva, Dr. Sven Conventz, Dr. Nina Al-Mattar, Wafa Al-Ghatam, Fatma A. Khalfani, Ahood Al-Maimani