The search for city : between being and seeming in the rapid urbanisation of Doha, Qatar

Chomowicz, Peter (2016) The search for city : between being and seeming in the rapid urbanisation of Doha, Qatar. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This dissertation’s essential aim is to understand the collective nature of a rapidly evolving twenty-first-century city. Looking closely at Doha, Qatar - a city that can choose to be anything it desires - reveals a tension between the regime’s aspirations and the expectations of its (mostly foreign) constituents. Doha’s fundamental transformation from village to metropolis provides an interpretation of ‘city’ that discloses the possibilities and limitations of civic culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

This thesis’ contribution to knowledge is four-fold: (1) to add generally to architectural and urban theory, and particularly to Arabian Gulf studies; (2) to develop an analytical framework based upon hermeneutic phenomenology that incorporates architecture into its structure of understanding; (3) to use this framework to illuminate the structure of Doha’s urban culture during its most transformative period; (4) to publish previously unseen documents and gather original personal narratives related to the period of study.

This thesis takes as its central concern how the institutional order within Doha, Qatar, provides the ground for ethical and ontological orientation; how one specific urban society, Doha, Qatar, uses architecture and its representation in its search for an authentic orientation in history when caught between the pull of tradition and the push of modernity. This tension is expressed in the city’s architecture and urban order as a mechanism to enable a shifting institutional order: new institutions arise within new forms, which in turn yield new architectural embodiments and new cultural articulations. This is Doha’s search for city: the constant attempt to reconcile what the world seems to be with what it might be.

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