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Equilibrium: Public spectacle for social integration

“Equilibrium: public spectacle for social integration” by Reem Al Thani

Abstract:

This thesis explores the ways socio-cultural methods of integration can influence architecture, using built form as a catalyst for connection in fragmented cities or communities.

Architecture plays a role in accentuating or diminishing socio-cultural segregation that exists in developing cities with diverse cultures. Doha, Qatar, with a population split between 13% National and 87% Expatriate, is an example of a developing city with extreme diversity that struggles to maintain its local community alongside foreign influx. The situation is jarringly apparent in the form of isolated architecture that has overtaken the city with glass towers and megastructures that are out of context with the desert weather and way of life. Isolated architecture enforces social boundaries through physical boundaries and strategically limited access. Social change will not be achieved by eliminating the expats or stripping the nationals of power or ownership of place; a democratic architectural intervention can create an equilibrium that heightens sense of social responsibility and allows for social integration.

However, until that equilibrium is found, the society of Doha continues to become more fragmented due to lack of awareness and understanding of the integration that needs to occur, both on a social and architectural level.

Integrating diversity through architecture requires three interconnected elements: first behavioral integration – a willingness to change has to be present on some level for socio-cultural development to accrue. Second, programmatic integration,outlined through public sphere theory – the needs of public spaces and public engagement, emphasizing free access, meeting strangers and freedom of expression. Giving a voice to the voiceless – storytelling allowing all to share their perspective on city life for a leveling ground and sense of equality. Third, architectural integration demands a public space typology, that allows for democratic architecture in design considerations and hosting public engagement activities.

The site is a part of the city’s fabric that can host all the qualities needed for social and architectural integration. The water tower presents itself in a very standoffish manner throughout the city, almost forgotten due to its apparent abandonment. It is an obsolete icon of the city’s development, giving it an almost untouchable air of isolation and independence, though it once served all residents of Doha equally – making it a perfect location to create a public spectacle in which to tell stories of the city and its people.

This thesis proposes an architectural intervention driven by acknowledgment of a human need for space that address the underlying issues of a diverse society.

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