Learning From Qatar

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 08:02:29


by Angelique Campens & Jan De Cock
For much of the Western imagination, Qatar is practically a blank slate. Until not so long ago, the peninsula on which Qatar rests was populated almost exclusively by Bedouin nomads. As Qatar has grown in recent years, it has built its modern culture, education, politics and society nearly from scratch. Its modernization has also incorporated many elements of its nomadic and anti-colonial past. Qatar is not a blank slate. It has a history and a present as complex and variegated as any other – for those who take the time to learn from it.

Friday, January 13, 2012 01:01:45

Learn from Qatar / Swalif: Qatari Art between Memory and Modernity

by Avi Alpert
This article itself is an introduction to my own attempt to "learn from Qatar." Learning in this sense is not a "looking back" or "looking down," so much as it is a looking across, an opening to a conversation. The hope is to turn away from the hierarchical discourse of tradition and modernity, and towards the humility of dialogue. One of the main themes of this attempt will be conversation itself with a look at the exhibit, "Swalif: Qatari Art between Memory and Modernity." (Swalif itself is an Arabic word that "suggests friendly, informal conversations and stories.") I will also be exploring modern and contemporary art from the region more generally, as well as those architects whose visions have been one of learning from Qatar, such as I.M. Pei and Jean Nouvel. (Given that Pei was one of the architects originally criticized by Venturi, Brown and Izenour, it is worth seeing how his modernist vision has changed over time!) As I approach these works, I will do so with the humble, conversational engagement that allows for learning as a reciprocal adventure.

Saturday, April 21, 2012 10:04:58

from the archive

University Qatar: library under construction

Saturday, April 21, 2012 07:04:40

Vertical Invasion

by Annelies Vaneycken
1 — The Journey
My body is cramped from sitting for days in the same position. I am vacuum-packed in cotton cloth and scarfs to protect myself from small rocket attacks of sand, propelled by the biting wind. The arid climate is hard to deal with. The heat weighs heavily on my body and prevents my mind from concen-trating. Our caravan has been silent since the day we set out two weeks ago. Has it been that long? It feels like a month, a year. Yet, I remember the day we left as if it was yesterday. Time becomes an abstraction in the desert.

Friday, April 13, 2012 03:04:19

The first icons form Doha

by Angelique Campens
“Most of what passes for urban and city planning in the broadest sense has been
infected (some would prefer “inspired”) by utopian modes of thought.” — David Harvey

Until the 80s, the countries and independent sheikdoms in the Persian gulf region had no architecture of reknown. This was certainly the case for Qatar, as even the Lonely Planet called the capital, Doha, the “dullest place on earth.”
Qatar started from its independence on (in 1971) - like its neighboring countries- to reshape the landscape. Fast changes in architecture as well in urban development and the decision to invite international architects (for the ruling family and educational, cultural and urban reasons) led after a long period of tradition to Qatar’s unique modern architecture. Keep in mind that until not so long ago, the peninsula on which Qatar rests was populated almost exclusively by Bedouin nomads. It has grown this modern culture, education, politics and society only recently. What makes its modernization unique is that it has also incorporated many elements of its nomadic and anti-colonial past into the modern. As such, they have tried to find a balance between new necessities, modernity and their traditional architecture.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 07:04:14

Manifesto for an educational institution in the UAE as societal agent

by Markus Miessen
– December 2011
This institution... Should be a localized, small-scale hub. Should regularly perform cultural and educational activities in collaboration with local NGOs, schools, and individuals. Should aim for a long-term local presence as a critical platform for exchange. Should enact a non-preemptive, roaming, and non-consensual programme. Should appreciate the value of failure. Should institutionalize a frequent regime of “learning from” scenarios. Should be a low-threshold space of knowledge (production). Should question the default modes of institution building.

Friday, September 23, 2011 06:09:28

from the archive

Sheraton doha during construction, early 1980s.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 06:08:51

from the archive

Image from 1982 in: “Construction of the Sheraton: Doha, Qatar”.