REGENERATING HISTORICAL DOHA
In an effort to recreate Qatari heritage in a central urban district of Doha, Gensler’s solution for the Msheireb Downtown Doha project focuses on creating a community feeling in a walkable neighbourhood.
People in modern societies in general enjoy living in transit-served urban areas with a broad variety of restaurants, entertainment, and cultural activities. This is no different in the Middle East with the exception being that these ‘urban communities’ are a scarce find in this region, in particular in the Gulf area.
Rapid urban development spurred by the development of the oil industry has created a conglomeration of modern skyscrapers in cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Kuwait City while little attention was paid on creating livable communities that provide a neighbourhood-feel, offer comfortable outdoor areas and encourage walking.
With the Downtown Doha project, developer Msheireb Properties – a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation established as a commercial venture to support the Qatar National Vision 2030 – is providing an answer to people’s quest for livable communities in Qatar.
Msheireb Downtown Doha is a 31-hectare (77-acre) mixed-use development of which leading global architecture and design practice Gensler is executive architect and one of several design architects for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the overall project, which is regenerating a central district of Doha as a collection of walkable, multi-use neighbourhoods. In addition to mostly low-rise residences, there is one retail centre, street-level shops, two hotels and office space.
Gensler started working on the project in 2010 which demonstrates one of the biggest projects the firm has ever undertaken, and which, at its peak, had more than 150 people from seven different Gensler offices around the world involved.
Developments such as Msheireb Downtown Doha are extremely important for this region as they aim to preserve the rich cultural history with the higher purpose of supporting and fostering national identity, the firm says.
“This project is an opportunity to harness design to empower the nation while focusing on what the project can give back to the country,” Gensler says.
Downtown Doha is a massive regeneration project of the historical centre of Doha, which involved tearing almost all existing buildings in the area down while only keeping the original street pattern in addition to a couple of traditional buildings.
Using mostly regional stone, Gensler’s solution for reconstruction of Phase 2 and 3 involved a focus on low-rise architecture that includes office, retail, and hotel space in addition to a selection of residential elements. The latter are designed based on different characteristics of ‘placemaking’ which in fact is a key element of the overall development. A network of shaded squares, courtyards and streets creates a real community neighbourhood for its residents.
“It’s not so much about the architecture of the buildings themselves but rather about the concept of placemaking,” Gensler explains. There are smaller neighbourhoods within the larger ones, similar to the firm’s solution for The Avenues retail mall in Kuwait. Everything is walkable, there’s ground floor street retail, natural shades that encourage walking, a network of shaded squares, courtyards and streets.
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