Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doha (26th - 31st May)


Having worked on various projects located in Doha over the past 5 years, it is only recently that I had the opportunity to visit it. It being a short trip we had just enough time to visit a new development called Katara and Souk Waqif that felt like public spaces, while rest of the experience was through the car on a busy high speed road surrounded by tower (West Bay) or low rise suburban sprawl. The built environment seemed to reflect the demographics of the place where one could visibly see the difference between built forms and spaces that were for Qataris, expatriates and low skilled workers, and a conscious space planning to keep these segregated. Workers were seen to use the street or vague in-between spaces as their public space to linger in the background, almost invisible.
This contradiction of desiring segregation but aspiring for an image of public life for each of the three groups under consideration reminds me of China Mieville’s The City & The City, described here as “The City & the City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully 'unsee' (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away. The twin cities are composed of crosshatched, alter, and total areas. "Total" areas are entirely in one city, the city in which the observer currently resides. "Alter" areas are completely in the other city, and so must be completely avoided and ignored. Between these are areas of "crosshatch". These might be streets, parks or squares where denizens of both cities walk alongside one another, albeit "unseen." Areas that exist in both cities usually go under different names in each one. There is also Copula Hall, "one of the very few" buildings which exists in both cities under the same name. Rather than being cross-hatched, it essentially functions as a border. It is the only way in which one can legally and officially pass from one city to another. Passing through the border passage takes travellers, geographically (or "grosstopically"), to the exact place they started from – only in a different city”. Only in case of Doha it would be 3 cities interlocked within one another. For designers who don’t have the luxury of fighting social injustices or demand democracies, developing such self-indulgent design briefs is the only way to survive work in the middle east, which to be honest can be lot more interesting given the crazy money + ambition combination than do work in a democratic process with restricted budget, a 100000 page convoluted policy guidance, 1 km deep sub terrain infrastructure, public consultations and if that is not enough bunch of boring consultants who are hired to purely tick the boxes to give rise to a reasonably well reasoned masterplan that reeks of absence of any ambition for the built environment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Canterbury, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Dover, Hastings

Trip to Canterbury, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Dover and Hastings (3th, 4th May)
Inside Canterbury Cathedral fortification

Ramsgate Beach
Ramsgate Beach

Chalk Cliffs of Dover

Dover Cliff

Fishermen's Housing and Shops @ Hastings