Investigating the Qualities of the Urban Environment in Emerging Regional Metropolises

  • Salama, Ashraf (Principal Investigator)
  • Thierstein, Alain (Co-investigator)

Project: Projects from Previous EmploymentResearch


Cities on the Arabian Peninsula have recently acquired a geo-strategic importance. Through the shift of global economic forces, cities in the region, and Doha is no exception, have developed to central hubs between old economies of Western Europe and the rising economies of Asia. In the context of international competition between cities new challenges are emerging. Cities need to find ways to sustain their position in the context of a global knowledge economy. Knowledge-intensive economies have been identified as the key driver for spatial-urban development that include services, high tech, higher education and are characterized by international presence. Yet, how exactly can cities survive in the global competition of geographic locations? How can they influence their significance in knowledge economy context? In answering, the research aims at identifying emerging patterns of spatial development and the driving forces behind the associated processes. It investigates the qualities of the urban environment of Doha as an important regional metropolis utilizing mixed research methods, including interviews, observations, mapping, and spatial analysis. The impetus of this research is that it would pave the way to informed policies, establishing guidance parameters on the role of Doha in knowledge economy context, and contributing to the urban policy making with respect to the city’s urban qualities including land use, public space, and spatial development.

Key findings

The main conclusions drawn from the results of this NPRP research project can be summarized as following:
• The case study Doha has proven to be a valid choice due to its emerging significance in the region and its rather unique development conditions. Cross-sectional analyses are highly recommended to extend similar research attempts to other emerging cities in the Gulf and worldwide.
• The recent evolution of Doha has been mainly affected by a new public development vision and subsequent public investment strategies.
• The city of Doha has entered a new and rather distinguished stage of urban development during the beginning of the new millennium.
• The lack of public planning due to capacity deficits and organizational reconfigurations in combination with the high growth pressure have led to uncoordinated and fragmented development patterns.
• A large percentage of the present service sector in Qatar is depending on the temporary construction boom.
• Many knowledge intensive services are provided by companies operating from the Emirate of Dubai.
• Companies within advanced producer service sectors need a high diversity of accessible office locations.
• The urban area of Doha has doubled since 2003.
• Urban sprawl was mainly affected by the extensive low rise compound developments for international workforce.
• Most residential districts for high income groups are undersupplied regarding services and facilities resulting in long travel distances (such as an average of 7 km from residences to grocery stores).
• Favored public spaces are limited to a rather small number considering the size of the city and number of inhabitants (less than 2 square meters of green space per inhabitant).
• Public spaces lack responsiveness to various cultural needs.
• The cultural background highly affects the perception of urban qualities.
• Traffic congestion, lack of construction standards and missing social services have been identified as the key challenges to establish livability in Doha.
• Fast urban growth has led to the need for the extension of highway networks, which has led to the disintegration of local districts and their urban centers.
• The missing development of integrated urban centers has led to a high dependency on three to five major shopping malls.
• Due to the extensive urban sprawl in the West of the city, the most integrated and accessible urban area has shifted from Al Salata and A-Ring Road to Al Sadd and C-Ring Road.
• The West Bay business center lacks accessibility and infrastructure and therefore faces inhibited development.
• The C-Ring Road has emerged as the main central business spine of Doha.
Effective start/end date1/01/111/06/14


  • knowledge-intensive economy
  • spatial typologies
  • spatial qualities
  • urban environment