News Column

Re-imagining Doha's public spaces

May 11, 2014


DOHA ALBAKER Architects is a Qatar-based architecture and engineering firm with a vision to transform places into experiences and destinations. Founded in 2011, it is a local practice with an international vision, which provides a full range of design solutions from masterplanning to architecture to interior design.

The company's view is that buildings have purposes larger than themselves. Provoked by the evolving connections that are formed by urban context, the architects explore relationships between urban elements that result in events and processes that intrigue and fascinate.

The company's first foray into the examination of public space was undertaken in Hybrid Intersections, an exhibition which looked at the relationship between conceptual thought on design and research of specific situations within the city of Doha. The design was conceived as a linear system that starts as a network of pixels and lines which morph into an intersecting network of surfaces.

Research for the project delved deep into the tissue of Doha's composition, studying existing outdoor public spaces and the effect they have on the city. By analysing outdoor public areas in Doha, it has become possible to identify what they offer, what people use the space for, and how they feed back into the urban environment.

Albaker Architects continues its research into public spaces in Doha, focusing on their use and continued evolution in a new exhibition entitled Foreseeing Territories taking place at the Katara Art Center until June 4. Through an exploration of the sense of sight, smell, touch, and hearing, the installation aims to transport the viewer to three familiar environments in Doha, but in another time and place.

Yausif Albaker, is a Qatari national who studied architectural design in the US. Following his education abroad, Yausif worked in different sectors of the architecture industry from project management to design to construction management. Eventually, he was recruited by the 2022 bid team as the principal architect overseeing all architectural aspects of the historic FIFA bid.

Following the success for the FIFA World Cup bid, Yausif founded his own architectural practice, namely Albaker Architects. Qatar Tribune spoke with Albaker about the exhibition and its context, and about the company's future projects in the country, which include plans for designing a hotel in Doha in the near future.

Explaining the ideas driving the exhibition, Albaker said 'the idea motivating the exhibition is not only professional, it's also driven by a personal reason: because I am a Qatari, and have lived in Doha for many years. I have observed that there is a huge need for public space here. This develops into and informs my own professional work as an architect, and this is basically the idea behind the project, namely how to re-envision public space in the city.

Explaining the techniques which were employed to assemble the exhibition, Albaker said 'the way we reexamine public space in the show, is through going back to the basic elements which make up a public space. We're talking about people gathering on the beach, or getting together at a park, maybe playing football. However, what we're looking at here is a very huge topic with lots of possible approaches, and we wanted to reduce this to three elements in three different territories in the city. These elements are seating, shading and landscaping, and the territories we apply these elements to are: a beach, a park and a city square.

Elaborating on the technically sophisticated approach taken to this method of putting together approaches to different elements which predominate in public spaces, Albaker explained that 'we're looking at the three territories of a beach, a park and a city square, and the idea we're bringing into this exhibition, from which an architectural and design philosophy emerges formally throughout the exhibition, and is condensed into a formal language whereby these three elements are perhaps obscured from the sense of familiarity of say, what a bench, or a landscape is, and they are then re-formed and reorganised in order to shape and activate the public space.

Discussing real-world applications of the team's profound design philosophy and formal language, which seek to motivate and energise public spaces, Albaker noted one was indeed in progress, although he was not at liberty to provide details of the project.

Outlining this project, he said 'we're working on something at the moment where we're incorporating very similar ideas and techniques to those used in this exhibition. It's a hotel, a very big and exclusive brand actually, with which very famous architects have worked in the past all over the world. Of course, we're very fortunate, not only to be in the same pool of architects, but also to work with such a great brand. Hopefully, we will announce the project soon enough, and the project should be in construction within two months.

Albaker explained that the ideas which the group has condensed into the exhibition are also to be applied to that project, and indeed, could be applied to whole cities on the scale of an urban planning methodology.

He said 'the project is a hotel, so we're looking at a hotel lobby, and asking how we can activate the public space in the hotel's lobby in a similar way. Notably, we're looking at it with a view to obscuring the sense of familiarity of the traditional lobby elements by tinkering with the scale. In other words, forms emerge from enlarging or reducing elements of that space, so we ask, what if the bench becomes a wall, and how would that affect the space inside the building? This is an example, and the point is that our philosophy and formal language gives one endless possibilities not only to look at small elements like furniture, but also can be scaled to examine buildings as elements of cities and in that way, our ideas can be applied on much larger scales.

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Source: Qatar Tribune

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