Restoration of Souk Waqif, Qatar (shortlisted 2008–2010)

Souk Waqif is located in the heart of downtown Doha, the capital of the state of Qatar, and is one of the most important heritage sites in the country (Salama et al., 2017). Initially, Souk Waqif (Standing Market), a labyrinthine covered market near Doha waterfront, was founded approximately a century ago to trade livestock, such as goats, sheep, and camels, and sell various goods. In those days, this part of the city was located along the shoreline of the Arabian Gulf until the 1960s, when developers began land reclamation projects to extend the coastline in order to build a coastal road; eventually the area beside the coastal road was landscaped with trees, shrubs, and pedestrian walkways and became known as the Doha Corniche (Salama and Wiedmann, 2013). The extension of the shore perimeter altered the area’s morphology as well as the topographical condition of the areas surrounding the souk.

The urban layout of the souk is fairly simple, unlike other, more complex souks in the Muslim world. This is partially due to spontaneous and gradual construction practices. The souk covers a 164,000-square-metre area and is organised in three sections: a covered zone with winding interior lanes filled with kiosks and shops for wholesale and retail goods; an open-air zone with two wide perpendicular pedestrian lanes, animated with a variety of souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee shops, open-air stalls, and souvenir shops; and a third covered commercial zone which lies behind the main east-west artery. It is the only open-air public shopping space in Doha (Mostafavi, 2011c). However, the older covered parts of the souk area have retained their traditional roofs made of barasti (palm leaf) and teakwood beams to provide shelter from the sun and cool passageways for shoppers. Various artefacts are displayed around the souk to remind passers-by of the souk’s past. Vehicular circulation is limited and managed outside the pedestrian zones: two vast underground car parks provide parking space, not only for the souk but also for nearby Corniche Park. The most important feature in this project is that it was designed to provide authentic humanistic and artistic experiences. This is represented in the human scale of low buildings (at most three storeys) and the contextual interpretation of Qatari heritage (Radoine, 2010b).

Issues of identity, modernisation, and globalisation based on a series of traditional values were considered in the renovation and reconstruction of the Souk Waqif. Its cultural identity and heritage were important factors in determining why people choose to visit, invest in, or relocate there. Well-proportioned public spaces and streets contribute to business visibility', accessibility, and viability (Nafi et al., 2015). In 2000, the then emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, invited international experts to propose a design for the reconstruction of the souk, but results were not satisfactory.

The emir then asked Qatari artist Mohamed Ali Abdullah to provide some ideas and proposals. He mainly focused on a number of key objectives: reconstructing and preserving past images of historic Doha, protecting the souk and its surrounding area from real estate development, creating pedestrianised open-air public areas, and rehabilitating the original old souk by demolishing the ugly concrete structures built in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as refurbishing its original layout and shops (Radoine, 2010b). Abdullah had spent his childhood in the area and wanted to restore Souk Waqif by using traditional building construction practices. His concept was to develop and enhance the visual character of the souk, with the ultimate aim of preserving vernacular architectural forms, decorative materials, construction techniques, and local heritage and history (Figure 3.12). The key goal

Souk Waqif, Doha, Qatar, by Private Engineering Office

Figure 3.12 Souk Waqif, Doha, Qatar, by Private Engineering Office, Mohamed Ali Abdullah was to revive the imagined memory of the place; as a result, modern concrete buildings which housed electrical shops, hardware shops, dry goods shops, supermarkets, and clothing stores, as well as a few restaurants, were demolished.

Modern construction materials used in these structures were replaced with more traditional techniques, traditional facades, and traditional architecture. Today the souk is a popular destination for local citizens, expatriate residents, and tourists alike. However, the surrounding area of the souk underwent some major changes despite the original intent to preserve its structures. Some of the old buildings in the nearby Msheireb area were demolished for the “Heart of Doha” project, later named Msheireb Downtown Doha, and new tall new cement structures, including hotels, residences, and office buildings, have been built in their place. However, three historic buildings remain; these have been converted into interactive museums and interpretation centres: the A1 Radwani House, the Bin Jalmood House (now the Slavery Museum), and the old oil company headquarters, Company House.

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