Notes from the Road: Two Months in Doha, Qatar- Caitlin Francis Reff lived and worked in Doha from January – March 2012.
Earlier this year, I found myself in the great state of Qatar for two months. I was working onsite with GBS, Interface Global, TiME Qatar and others on the Msheireb Downtown Doha project. Throughout my experience, I was continually impressed, surprised and sometimes shocked by a country that is: extremely wealthy, dominated by an expatriate population, experiencing rapid growth, preparing for major world events (COP 18, 2022 FIFA World Cup), planning for post-oil era (while currently sitting at the top of the global per-capita carbon emissions list), striving to meet their Qatar National Vision 2030, and is host country and headquarters to Aljeezera.
March 8th, 2012 was International Women’s Day and I was fortunate enough to attend the “Women in the Sustainable Built Environment: Qatar Prospects” event, hosted by Qatar University, Qatar Green Building Council, the National Association of Women in Construction Qatar, and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gulf Chapter.
It was great to connect with local and expatriate women in Qatar, seeing as though this is a very male-dominated society. The conference focused on issues of sustainability through the “unique lens applied by women in construction”. While I typically grapple with the concept of a “unique women’s lens” back home (how is sustainable design & construction really any different from a gender perspective?), I found that it is quite relevant in Doha, where women are a distinct minority in the industry. At the conference, several young Qatari women Architecture and Urban Planning students presented their senior projects. It was inspiring and encouraging to hear their innovative ideas for shaping the future of Doha. Qatar is on a path towards improved social equality, environmental stewardship, and cultural heritage and these women demonstrated their passion, knowledge and commitment to that reality.
Needless to say, but I will: Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) is an incredible project. The developer, Msheireb Properties, is genuinely dedicated to large-scale sustainable urban regeneration. The project has already garnered many awards and is serving as a template for the sustainable urban growth of modern cities everywhere.
Also, through work on LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) for the MDD project, an answer to the question raised by my colleague in his November 9th, 2011 post was discovered… before air-conditioning, Qataris were quite comfortable within their homes thanks to ingenious traditional architecture, consideration for building orientation and massing, and use of natural and local building materials.
The Malqaf, translated to “Windcatcher” naturally ventilates homes without the aid of mechanical systems or energy use. I toured the Al Wakra Fishing Village historic preservation project last weekend; here are some shots of an authentic Malqaf in effect! Breezy, beautiful and cool….