The Nature of Public Space in Globalizing Doha

  • Salama, Ashraf (Co-investigator)
  • Salama, Husam H (Principal Investigator)

Project: Projects from Previous EmploymentResearch


This project investigates the nature of social life in small public spaces in the city of
Doha. It aims to develop a better understanding of the patterns of social discourse and activities in these places. Public space is a critical component of any urban structure. It contributes to the quality of its social life. Besides, it plays a significant role in shaping the urban identity of cities. Doha, like many cities in the Middle East, has experienced dramatic forms of urban transformation during the last decade in response to the new world order or what is referred to as globalization. Global flows of people, capital, goods, and information became major players in the process of place formation and transformation in the city. This was associated with socio cultural changes or what Anthony Appiah refers to as “cultural contamination.” He means by contamination both the tendency of globalization to homogenize cultures, and its contribution to the diversity and complexity of urban cultures (Appiah 2006). Public space, more than any other urban component, exposes these forms of interaction between the local and the global, the authentic and the contaminated. The public sphere is the arena of negotiations or as defined by the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas “the discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment” (Hauser, 1998). This study aims to observe these forms of negotiation not only between users but also between them and space. The research builds on Henri Lefebvre’s interpretation of space and his three dimensional conceptualization: the perceived, the conceived, and the lived (Lefebvre, 1991). Notably, little attention has been given to lived space and the spatial practices involved. Therefore, this study places more emphasis on the notion of “lived space,” or public space as it is physically experienced in Doha.

Key findings

The significance of the research could summarized in the following:
‐ This study recognizes the uniqueness of patterns of social discourse in each city.
These patterns are shaped by multiple factors such as culture, economy, climate and politics.
‐ We investigate the impact of globalization on these patterns. Global flows of people, capital, and information are becoming crucial forces that contribute to the formation and transformation in a globalizing city like Doha.
‐ The research presents a new understanding of the nature of public space in Gulf cities. The study focuses on forces that shape users’ perception, conception and performance in the public realm of Doha.
‐ It emphasizes the problematic of generalizing theories on public space in western cities without acknowledging the uniqueness of the nature of urban structures in the Gulf region.
‐ We propose design guidelines that can improve the quality of public spaces in the city.
‐ The project offers students a great opportunity to apply scientific methods of urban analysis and data collection tools such as field observation, mapping, surveys and interviews.
Effective start/end date31/05/1230/09/13


  • globalization
  • public space
  • Urban design & planning
  • Urban development
  • social change