GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Interrogating Qatar’s Urbanity as a Catalyst for Building Knowledge-Based Societies and Economies
Paper Proposal Text :
Until recently, Qatar was dominated by nomadic and semi-nomadic people whose livelihood depended on fishing, pearling, camel breeding, and dhow building. However, the discovery of oil and gas has encouraged not only socio-economic changes, but environmental changes as well. The tremendous economic boom in Qatar has been supported largely by an influx of expatriate workers. The country is becoming a magnet for a growing external workforce in the last five years. The changing demographic structure of Doha, which is considered by some regional researchers as a threat to national identity, can also be seen as a contributor to constructing Doha’s new identity. Landry (2006) argues that we need to blend our differences together even if we do not understand each other. In this sense, culture diversity is actually a positive feature and one of the crucial conditions for constructing knowledge and creative societies.

Planning for a Post-Carbon Future: Qatar’s leaders are convinced that the post-oil economy is becoming a reality. Moving from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy is an inevitable transformation which requires understanding and better engagement. Qatar is taking great strides in promoting sustainable development and pursuing long-term policy in this regard. In order for this pursuit to be successful, economic development must take place within the context of social and environmental development. Sustainable development has become the focus of Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV), which outlines the development of Qatar over the next twenty years. QNV 2030 is based on four supporting themes: human development, social development, economic development and environmental development. In order to facilitate the realization of QNV, Qatar is positioning itself as a knowledge-based society, principally in the fields of education, research, energy, and technology.

Branding Qatar via Doha’s Emerging Knowledge-based Urbanism
Two main categories of architecture and urbanism can be comprehended within the boundaries of Doha, as the main channels for articulating the new urban brand: Dohaization. Knowledge-based Urban Development (KBUD) is the first category. The balanced combination between local and global urbanism is the second.

Knowledge-based Urban Development (KBUD)
Going by different indicators, Doha may be seen as the most advanced city within the Middle East to adopt knowledge economy as a conceptual base for its 2030 vision. Qatar underwent a radical transformation to go beyond the typical image of a Gulf city relying on presumably endless assets of oil and gas. A move towards becoming a regional center for education, knowledge and culture is the new aspired sense of identity for the Gulf State. Significant investment has been made in knowledge-based urban development in the country during the last five years. Among the major projects, three unique developments are worth a detailed analysis: Education City, Qatar Science and Technology Park, and Museum of Islamic Art.

Creating a Culture of Research and Knowledge: Education City, Qatar: Education City is a unique campus on the outskirts of Doha which hosts branch campuses of some of the world's leading universities, as well as numerous other educational and research institutions. Education City is envisioned as a hub for the generation of new knowledge: a place that provides researchers with world-class facilities, a pool of well-trained graduates, the chance to collaborate with like-minded people, and the opportunity to transfer ideas into real-world applications. Several Western universities have branch campuses in Education City as follows: Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Northwestern University in Qatar, and University College London in Qatar.

Qatar’s Science and Technology Park QSTP: The objectives of “turning Doha into a vibrant science and technology hub” and “attracting and retaining highly skilled employees” are outlined in the Qatar Strategic Plan 2030. By the end of 2007, the first phase of Qatar Science and Technology Park was opened for business and populated with tenants. A massive, state-of-the-art convention center – another signature piece of architecture by ArataIsozaki – was already hosting prestigious global events. The Science and Technology Park provides facilities for commercial giants such as ExxonMobil and European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) and is in the latest stage of the development. QSTP was established to provide the ideal environment to develop and market hi-tech intensive innovations and products and for providing services and locations with international standards for global companies to incubate new technological projects. The fact that QSTP is located close to Education City’s top universities adds a positive element particularly when it comes to research collaboration, innovation, and creativity.

The paper will also argue that knowledge and creative cities should be perceived as the opportunity for new sustainable growth and prosperity in the global knowledge-based economy. Therefore, the emerging knowledge and cities in the Middle East should be seen within a regional and global knowledge network. A focus on Doha as an emerging knowledge and creative city amid the Middle Eastern cities will be construct the core case study to examine the main hypothesis of the paper. The ability to analyze such an example can be of benefit to ongoing process of development in Gulf States. The paper will articulate a solid model to be followed by Gulf cities seeking a transformational change similar to Doha. A change from recourses and industrial economies to a creative and knowledge economy. A transformation which has been seen as inevitable change for Gulf cities in a rapidly approaching post carbon paradigm.

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