Rapid urbanization and technological advances have resulted in more and more standardization of built environments, depriving human habitats of cultural and regional identity, in which the trend of standardization is becoming an international malaise as the same building methods, materials, and styles are applied. The art of building is forever high on the agenda of many of the conferences, symposia, and community group meetings searching for methods and concepts that could lead to better and more equitable cities. In recent years, world cities (global cities) and globalization have become key concepts of social scientists, architects, and economic geographers observing, experiencing, and describing the profound changes that new technologies have been causing for worldwide economic and spatial development. Planners soon followed the academic interest and tried to explore ways and means of promoting cities and city regions to world cities, followed in turn by architects analyzing and criticizing the negative local and regional impacts of such globalization (Lo and Yeung, 1998).
Middle East and especially Doha, the capital of Qatar, keeps positioning and re-inventing itself on the map of international architecture and urbanism with different expressions of its unique qualities in terms of economy, environment, culture, and global outlook. In many respects, it is pictured as an important emerging global capital in the Gulf region with intensive urban development processes. In this essay, I present a narrative of contemporary architecture of Doha that resembles a drama for a theater with performers contributing to scenes exhibited to the local public and the global spectator.
Historically, Doha was a fishing and pearl diving town. Today, the capital is home to more than 90% of the country’s 1.7 million people, with over 80% professional expatriates from other countries. Up to the mid 1960s, the majority of the buildings were individual traditional houses that presented local responses to the surrounding physical and socio-cultural conditions. During the 1970s Doha was transformed into a modernized city. However, in the 1980s and early 1990s the development process was slow compared to the preceding period due to either the overall political atmosphere and the first Gulf war or the heavy reliance of the country on the resources and economy of neighboring countries.