Young architects and urban designers from Qatar have over the past week collaborated with their British counterparts in an architectural design competition, re-imagining the urban landscape of Old Doha. 

The Old Doha Prize has been organised by the British Council and Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) as part of Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture, in association with the Doha Architecture Centre, Msheireb Properties, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.

Chair of Judges for the Old Doha Prize and principal of Makower Architects in Doha and London, Tim Makower, said:

As is already clear from the inspirational work-in-progress review which took place at the Msheireb Enrichment Centre yesterday, the Old Doha Prize is achieving its two main objectives. Firstly collaboration – the sharing of knowledge, skills and insights between Qatari and British designers – is working beautifully. The inclusive and apparently seamless team-work was extraordinary, especially considering that the teams met for the first time less than a week ago. Secondly, the project is provoking debate and raising awareness about the cultural, urban and economic potential of the run-down areas of Old Doha. Although the teams are thinking in excitingly diverse ways about the project, there is a clear consensus that this area holds some of the essence of Qatar’s cultural identity and that as such, it has real value for future generations.

This ideas competition has brought together four teams who have worked intensively to research the neighbourhood of Al Asmakh and Al Najada in Doha. Following a design charette brief, they have developed contextual design responses for the area based on the idea of ‘Al Turath al Hai’ or ‘Living Heritage’, in which history is a live and evolving concept, rather than something static to be simply preserved. The proposals present a variety of approaches to heritage-led regeneration, which could be relevant to the future of Old Doha. 

Both the Qatari and British participants have explored Doha’s architectural history and the city’s ambitious plans for the future. As well as site visits to the neighbourhoods of Al Asmakh and Najada in Old Doha, including special access to key heritage buildings in the area,  participants have also attended lectures, seminars and dinners with leading local academics, conservationists and planning experts with whom they have shared and discussed their designs.

The Qatari and British architects have worked together intensively in teams to produce designs to regenerate this piece of the old city centre in a vibrant and sustainable way, learning from the historic street patterns and buildings, whilst incorporating elements of contemporary Qatari design. The charette was facilitated by Dr Emin Mahir Balcioglu, Project Director of the National Museum Qatar from Qatar Museums Authority; lead facilitator Ameena Ahmadi, Architecture Manager for Qatar Foundation; Fatma Sahlawi, Architect working for Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), UCL Bartlett, and a member of Doha Architecture Forum; and Adrian Lahoud, Professor from Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. The charette attracted high profile UK visitors such as Angela Brady, Architect at Brady Mallalieu Architects and immediate past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture, Design, Fashion at British Council.

Participants’ designs were judged by a panel of industry experts; Suad Al Amiry, Practicing Architect and Founding Director of RIWAQ: Centre For Architectural Conservation, Ramallah, Palestine; Abdullah Al Baker, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, Qatar; Tim Makower, Architect, Makower Architects; Professor Marcial Echenique OBE, University of Cambridge Department of Architecture; and Dr Suha Ozkan, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), Founding President of the World Architecture Community, former Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Following the design presentations, a special award ceremony took place on 25 November 2013 at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Auditorium. The winning project of the Old Doha Prize was announced as the ‘Learnings from Old Doha’ project produced by Fatima Fawzy, Alicja Borkowska, Alaa Larri and Iris Papadatou. The winners received a grant of £15,000 (QR88,000) to allow the architects to further develop their research and ideas explored as part of the Old Doha Prize design residency. Winning Qatari participants will also be given the opportunity to visit the London Festival of Architecture in the UK in June 2014.

The winning team said:

We are very pleased to have won and are honoured to be a part of the Old Doha Prize! It’s been an intensive week, but also a fun and very worthwhile experience – we’ve learnt a lot! It’s also exciting to know that we’ve contributed something new and significant to the story of this area and to the city of Doha. We’ve also made real and lasting professional connections between the UK and Qatar, and we’re very much looking forward to continue working with our team-mates on the research and future projects. Thank you to all parties involved; truly amazing!’

Celebrating the long-standing relationship between the two countries, Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture aims to forge new and support existing partnerships in the arts, education, sport and science sectors, while promoting awareness and appreciation of each country’s culture, achievements and heritage. The Year is coordinated by Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and the British Council with the support of the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage and Katara Cultural Village along with Platinum Sponsors Qatargas, Qatar Shell and Vodafone Qatar.