ContradICTIONS AND PROSPECTS for The Brand-new City | The Plan
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ContradICTIONS AND PROSPECTS for The Brand-new City

Building in a rapidly changing social environment with virtually no historical or landscape constraints, unlimited economic resources and absolute power over land-use policy might appear the best-case scenario for conceiving and achieving a truly great city.

The first overwhelming feature of Doha - and all the other Gulf State cities - is the extraordinary number of foreigners. Almost 90% of the population is there on a temporary residence permit granted through a sponsorship system (kafala), based exclusively on a national (sponsor) vouching for a foreign worker (expat) before the state. The system allows no possible freedom of movement of workers, who once in the country might want to seek a better job or living conditions. As a result, 90% of the population live like prisoners on parole under the watchful supervision of their sponsor. Although this social structure might at first appear irrelevant to urbanization, the “human factor” is at the basis of the city’s spatial structure, its form and dynamic.

The second most striking feature of Doha is the rapidity of its development on a prevalently flat desert plain presenting virtually no obstacles to the profound landscaping projects that were undertaken to implement a masterplan that created a new city where practically nothing existed before.

Doha had about 12,000 inhabitants in the early 20th century, rising to 80,000 in the 1970s. But it was only in the 1990s, with the production of natural gas and the launching of economic liberalization and diversification policies by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani that the population increased to 500,000 and then tripled to top one and a half million by the turn of the century. Doha’s urban structure was therefore built in the space of just a few decades in the wake of sweeping social and technological changes, but also as a result of a clearly outlined strategic plan.

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