Qatari and UK architects look to Doha’s ‘living heritage’

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Architects from Qatar and Britain  are joining forces to take part in a competition aimed at looking how best to develop the changing landscape of Old Doha – while at the same time preserving and building on its traditional look.

The collaboration is part of the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture and is backed by the British Council, Royal Institute for British Architects, the Doha Architecture Centre and Msheireb Properties.

It will take the form of a week-long design residency in November where five teams consisting of architects from both countries will explore the best ways to bring forward the old parts of the city, while preserving the area’s heritage.

Chief focus will be on the areas of Al Asmakh and Najada.

Organisers say the competition will be founded on the principal of Al Turath Al Hai, or “living heritage”. This is the concept that heritage is not something purely associated with the past – instead it is something that continually evolves, but remains rooted in the traditional designs and values.

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Tim Makower, the man behind the Old Doha Prize and principal of Makower Architects operating in both Doha and London, said: “It is an opportunity to raise awareness about the character-rich fabric of the old city, which could become the foundation of a ‘Qatari Renaissance’.

“It is also a chance to celebrate and explore how young design talent from Qatar and the UK can work together and push the boundaries of what it means to respond to the identity of a place and explore how ‘heritage’ can be a springboard into the future as well as being a deep root in the past.”

Graham Sheffield is the director responsible for arts at the British Council. He said: “The Old Doha Prize is exactly the kind of cultural exchange we want to promote as part of the year.”

Aisha Ghanem al-Attiya, spokesperson for Qatar UK 2013, added: “With this competition, we bring together one of the world’s largest and one of the world’s fastest growing design sectors, the UK and Qatar, while providing opportunities for ambitious architects and designers in both nations.” The winning team will receive the Old Doha Prize and a grant of 15,000 UK pounds to further explore the ideas set out in its successful design residency. This could take the form of an exhibition, research project, installation, presentation or film.

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