Photo Report From Doha

by | 19. Dec 2013

The Camera

Museum of Islamic Art by I.M. Pei. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

Our recently appointed photo editor Pygmalion Karatzas went on a trip to document the dynamic city of Doha, the capital of Qatar. The result is a photo report that covers Doha’s cityscapes and architecture via an integral photographic approach that includes panoramics, featured buildings (both finished and under construction), as well as various artistic interpretations.

Images and text by Pygmalion Karatzas

For its relatively small size Doha has many fascinating and exceptional buildings to show and with this photo report I wanted to give a glimpse albeit a comprehensive one with cityscapes, featured buildings from renowned architects, archistracts and fine art impressions.

This photographic project took a few weeks in research, preparation and contacts, a month stay in Doha and a few more weeks in selection and post-processing of the images. The trip took place in October 2013, during which I familiarized with the city, visited selected locations, and met with construction industry professionals who presented some works in progress.

I would like to take Qatar as a prototype perhaps of what is possible in this new world and how each of these worlds is radically different. What is truly amazing in Qatar is that out of 2 million people only 300.000 are Qataris and therefore, whereas we are struggling with immigrants and countries like France are in a state of crisis through immigration, we have to admire other countries that are living with immigration on a colossal scale, where they are absolutely themselves a minority and therefore it’s impossible – apart from all the other things you can say about conditions etc. – to not also look at this as a part of tolerance.
/ Rem Koolhaas, ‘Agenda: 4 ambitions’ lecture at the 2012 Jencks Award, RIBA

Doha, the capital of Qatar, is the home to more than 90% of the country’s 1.7 million people, with over 80% professional expatriates. Historically it was a fishing and pearl diving town and up to the mid 1960s, the majority of the buildings were individual traditional houses. The modernization of the city occurred during the 1970s but during the 80s and early 90s the process was slowed down. In recent years Qatar has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world and as such the city is acquiring a geo-strategic importance. At the heart of the vision for the country’s development is a decreased dependence on natural resources and an increased reliance on a knowledge economy such as international universities and businesses, high tech and IT, and generally advanced producer services.


Corniche. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

The city inhabits approx. 18 km in the north-south axis along the sea side and 18 km in the east-west axis. The corniche and most of its coastline is man made. The areas that stand out and contribute the most to the city’s emerging character are:

Souq Waqif
The historic center and traditional market place. Adjacent we find the Museum of Islamic Art by architect I.M. Pei, on the south side of the corniche. Also under construction in this area scheduled to open in 2014, the National Museum of Qatar by architect Jean Nouvel.


West Bay aerial. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


West Bay at night. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

West Bay
The business and diplomatic district on the north side of the corniche concentrating most of the city’s skyscrapers dominating the city’s skyline. It houses many of the international companies’ headquarters, governmental ministries, high-rise hotels and apartment buildings, and shopping centers.


The Pearl. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

The Pearl
The new sea-side high-rise residential development planned by architecture firm Callison on an artificial island expected to dwell 45,000 people by 2015. In close proximity the Katara Cultural and Heritage Village which houses various cultural institutions and recreational activities. The area also includes high-end hotels, shopping centers, the West Bay Lagoon, Doha’s golf club, Qatar University’s campus and a number of embassies.


Katara. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Education City. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

Education City
Qatar Foundation’s 2,500 acre campus master planned by architect Arata Isozaki. Located on the north-west of the city it hosts faculties from world-renowned universities to home-grown research centers. Including the following: Qatar National Convention Centre and Ceremonial Court by Arata Isozaki; Qatar Foundation Headquarters, RAND Qatar Policy Institute and Qatar National Library by OMA; Texas A&M Engineering College, Carnegie Mellon University, Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Georgetown University by Legorreta+Legorreta; Science and Technology Park by Woods Bagot; Liberal Arts & Science by Coelacanth K&H;  Sidra Medical and Research Centre by Cesar Pelli; Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art by Jean-Francois Bodin; Northwestern University by Antoine Predock; Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre by Leigh & Orange.


Aspire Zone. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

Aspire Zone is a 250-hectare sporting complex located in Al Waab district on the west part of the city. It houses sport stadia and venues offering sport, sports medicine, research and education, training and rehabilitation facilities. Buildings include: Khalifa International Stadium, Hamad Aquatic Center, Aspire Dome & Academy by Roger Tailibert, Anti-Doping Lab Qatar by Olague & Solera, Aspire Logistics, The Torch Hotel by Hadi Simaan, Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital, Villagio Mall and Aspire Park.


Qatar National Convention Center by Arata Isozaki. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Texas A&M University by Legorreta + Legorreta. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Burj Qatar Tower by Jean Nouvel. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Al Hitmi office Building by NORR. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Liberal Arts & Science by Coelacanth K&H. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Msheireb Enrichment Centre by Allies & Morrison. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

The below areas are currently under construction or development:

Msheireb Downtown
A mixed-use regeneration project at the heart of the city master planned by Allies and Morrison and developed by the Qatar Foundation. Hailed as the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project, it’s a 31 hectare site in the city center to house premier office, retail, leisure, apartments, hotels, museums, civic services, cultural and entertainment venues. Estimated to be complete by 2016.

Lusail City and Light Rail Transit
On the north of the city, Lusail City is set to become a grand satellite city on over 35 km2 and accommodating up to 250,000 people. A master plan by the Lusail Real Estate Development Company with consulting firms Hyder, Halcrow, Cowi, Parsons, Bechtel, estimated to to be complete by 2019. It is also planned to host some of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums and related facilities for the event.

HIA Airport City
A new 10 km2 mixed-use development master planned by Rem Koolhaas and his OMA office to link the Hamad International Airport with the existing south part of the city. Phase one is a 30-year plan estimated to be mostly complete for the 2022 World Cup hosted by Qatar. Projected to host 200.000 people to live and work for business, logistics, retail, hotels and residences.

Sharq Crossing
Santiago Calatrava’s proposal to link the airport area with West Bay and the Pearl via a network of bridges and underwater tunnels. Completion is expected by 2020 to support the run-up to the World Cup event.

Among the buildings under construction are the following:


National Library by OMA. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies by Mangera Yvars. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

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Qatar Foundation Headquarters by OMA. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Sidra Medical & Research Centre by Cesar Pelli. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

The above list is by no means complete. There are many more developments under way (New Doha Port, Barwa City Development, Al-Waab City Development, Doha Festival City, Anantara Island Resort, Kahramaa Awareness park, the World Cup new stadiums, Hamad International Airport, Doha Convention Center Tower, to name a few) all of which make Doha a compelling city to keep an eye for and visit.

Doha, the capital of Qatar, keeps positioning and re-inventing itself on the map of international architecture and urbanism with different expressions of its unique qualities in terms of economy, environment, culture, and global outlook. In many respects, it is pictured as an important emerging global capital in the Gulf region with intensive urban development processes.
/ Prof. Ashraf Salama, “Narrating Doha’s contemporary architecture: the then, the now – the drama, the theater, and the performance”, Middle East 2, Issue 8, 4.7.2012



Burj Qatar Tower by Jean Nouvel. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Museum of Islamic Art by I.M. Pei. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Liberal Arts & Science by Coelacanth K&H. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Aspire Logistics. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


The Torch Hotel by Hadi Simaan. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Qatar National Convention Center by Arata Isozaki. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Hamad Bin Khalifa University by Legorreta + Legorreta. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas   



Tornado Tower by Robinson Pourroy. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Sidra Medical & Research Centre by Cesar Pelli. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Zig Zag Towers by MZ & Partners. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Al Hitmi Office Building by NORR. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Weill Cornell Medical College by ADH. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


The Torch Hotel, by Hadi Simaan. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas


Al Bidda Tower by GHD. Photo by Pygmalion Karatzas

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Map by Pygmalion Karatzas

I would like to thank the Qatar Foundation for granting me permission to photograph Education City, QDVC and Parsons for giving me access to the Lusail LRT project, SEG Qatar for the Asperat Hospital construction site tour, Al Hamad Engineering for the Al Najma hotel construction site tour, Amara Photos and Anas Akkawi photography for their guidance, Georgios Karatzas and Caterina Georgiopoulou for their hospitality, and, and for their support on this assignment.

Further readings :

A research project by Qatar National Research Fund on the city’s architecture and urbanism.

Professors Kelly Hutzell and Rami el Samahy research and documentation for Doha’s architecture and urbanism by Carnegie Mellon University and Qatar Foundation.

Qatar National Vision 2030.

A full series of images can be found here.