GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Dynamics of Populations and the Everyday Urban Environment in the Emerging City of Doha
Paper Proposal Text :
The city of Doha is experiencing continual rapid growth with new or emerging urban nodes and centres, housing developments, and a wide spectrum of built environments. According to the United Nations records, it is anticipated that half of the world’s population will be living in cities by year 2025. The city of Doha would exceed that prediction since more than 80% of Qatar’s population already resides in the capital. The overall urban environment is thus becoming more and more important in the daily lives of over 1.7 million inhabitants who live there. The urban qualities of the city heavily impact on a wide range of elements and aspects of daily life such as living conditions, workplace characteristics, and the attractiveness and appeal of urban open spaces. The regional and global importance of Doha has increased significantly over the past two decades and maintaining and sustaining the current growth of its urban population is seen as critical to the future development of the country. Hence, enhancing the quality and function of urban open spaces is one of the most important considerations that would determine such a future.

This paper focuses on several important growth aspects, including the examination of the dialectic relationship between the city inhabitants and the everyday urban environment, the understanding of the way in which the inhabitants comprehend and react to its built environment and the resulting spatial experience, as well as their attitudes toward newly urbanised spaces. The main objective of this research paper is to investigate the various synergies between the dynamics of populations and their surroundings which would foster an in-depth understanding of the future of urban consolidation. The rapid speed of contemporary urban developments has led to an urgent need to examine the various layers of interdependencies between an emerging society and newly built urban fabrics. The tendency of supply-driven parameters within local urbanism has led to restricted participation among inhabitants in shaping Doha's built environments in recent years. Evolution from the phenomenon of an “instant city” to a consolidated and attractive hub will, however, rely on increased individual identification to urban spaces and a more satisfying fulfilment of the demands and desires of communities in terms of architectural and urban design.

Utilising a mixed research method composed of a number of research techniques derived from the field of ‘Environment-Behaviour Studies’, this paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the results of implemeting the investigative tools utilized to evaluate and describe the way in which surveyed residents of Doha identify with their surroundings, how they spatially experience the city, and how they relate to selected key spaces or urban centres. Based on attitude surveys, assessment tools, photographic interviews, cognitive and behavioral mapping, this paper explores urban spaces in the city as perceived and experienced by various groups of residents from different socio-economic and socio-cultural backgrounds. The paper discusses the need for urban open spaces as promulgated by contemporary urban design literature. It therefore offers an overview of a number of urban open spaces specifically selected to conduct an exploratory assessment from the perspective of the city’s inhabitants. The paper furthermore explores the way in which the urban environment of the city, including the selected urban spaces, is experienced. It includes three main studies: the first is related to inhabitants’ comprehension of geographical locations and movement experience based on applying cognitive mapping techniques with over 100 inhabitants; the second is concerned with the inhabitants’ perception of urban open spaces and they way in which they descirbe them experientially which relies on photographic interviews with another 100 inhabitants; the third involves direct observation and behavioural mapping of users and activities of the selected urban spaces. The three studies are supplemented by an attitude survey that examines the spatial experience of the city’s inhabitants where over 300 responses received were analysed in terms of urban mobility, locational and spatial qualities of residence and workplace, qualities of amenities and services, and the overall image of the city of Doha.

The study reveals important findings that pertain to the way in which the everyday urban environment and the selected spaces are perceived and experienced, in addition to visiting and activity patterns; it also discusses how such experiences can vary, with regard to gender, cultural background, and age group. The results identify a number of positive aspects, in addition to noting shortcomings in the quality of urban spaces as well as the lack of key conditions and facilities regarded as amenable to creating liveable spaces. Nevertheless, the results support the notion that urban spaces are perceived and experienced differently by different groups based on their gender, age, and cultural background. Conclusions are drawn in a manner that makes various recommendations toward utilising a more inclusive and integrative approach to the design of the city’s urban spaces, while seeking means for improving the qualities of the everyday urban envirnment.