GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Role of Advanced Producer Service Firms in the Development of Urban Diversity in Doha
Paper Proposal Text :
Qatar's capital city Doha has undergone rapid transformation processes socio-economically as well as spatially over the last 15 years, during which the city has grown from less than 500,000 inhabitants to more than 1.7 million today. Large-scale public investments in local developments that were intended to establish Doha as a regional and international hub ushered in a new evolutionary phase in the city's urbanism. Subsequently, an increasing number of international advanced producer service (APS) firms set up offices in Doha, because of the attraction of the local and regional economic potential, particularly in regard to real-estate markets as well as emerging transit hubs. These incoming firms have transformed Doha's social structures as well as urban morphologies due to the extensive immigration of highly qualified human capital and the new demand-driven dynamics that the presence of this new population has injected into the city. This paper attempts to clarify the distinct roles of APS firms and their employees in the development of urban complexity and diversity in Doha. It therefore explores evolutions in urban governance, the morphological consequences of real-estate developments, the various APS networks and their office locations and the individual perceptions of employees of quality of life.
The recent transformation of urban governance from a centralized administration to a dynamic initiator of developments is explored via an interview series with officials at the Ministry of Municipalities and Urban Planning as well as an analysis of recent public investment strategies. The dynamics in real-estate developments are investigated using a comparative assessment of GIS data of the city in 2003 and 2012 as well as an analysis of current dynamics in office rental prices. These analyses are completed by a survey of 160 companies within advanced producer service sub-sectors and their office locations in Doha, which are examined in terms of spatial integration in urban fabrics. The individual perceptions of employees of urban qualities are explored by exploiting 350 questionnaires answered by staff working in a selected range of APS firms. The empirical investigation of demand-driven parameters within urban developments provides insights into how the transition to a knowledge economy service hub is currently accompanied by increasing urban qualities such as diversity and identity in the case of Doha.
Based on these insights the paper aims to examine the actual relationship between initiated diversification by public strategies and the rising appropriation of urban spaces by private businesses and their demands. Like many cities in the Gulf Doha can be considered a rather recent urban phenomenon initiated by oil and gas revenues in combination with emerging investment interests due to real-estate liberalization. The long-term goal of establishing diverse business hubs based on new oil-independent economies is currently challenging local decision makers, who have to decide between restricting urban developments by implementing legal frameworks to regulate projects and attracting international investment using laissez-faire incentives to stimulate urban growth. Today Doha and other Gulf cities are facing a turning point in which especially knowledge intensive services sector interests are gaining a more decisive role in urban developments. While in the past urban structures were planned and developed with little notion of actual demands, current dynamics in society and the economy have led to greater opportunities for decision makers to gain insights into the future needs of urban environments in the Gulf.
This paper therefore concludes with an outlook on a potential development scenario of more diverse urban morphologies built on the principles of decentralized concentration and integrated development. Based on the empirical research on current urban development tendencies, company networks, office locations and the perception of employees a scenario can be introduced to illustrate how Doha could evolve from a fragmented city to a vibrant and diverse business hub. This scenario is completed with a conceptual SWOT analysis to define the major challenges of urbanism today. Doha can become a potential role model in addressing the complex transition from an investment opportunity to a sustainable service center in the Gulf by avoiding the introduction of excessive growth mechanisms and their hazardous consequences. According to the Qatar National Vision the recent approach of urban governance not to exceed 2.8 million inhabitants by 2030 can be considered to be a new tendency in current public strategies toward consolidated urban growth. The emerging knowledge economies will play a specific role in establishing sustainable urban structures due to the introduction of more integrated urban development patterns based on demand driven parameters.