Al Khor Master Plan
Qatar is one of the fastest growing countries in the Middle East. One would just need to look at the dynamic changing skyline of Doha City to appreciate the break neck speed of development– something very familiar to the Singapore-based planning firm Surbana Urban Planning Group (SUPG) who have actively shaped Singapore over the last 40 years. Taking confidence in Singapore’s success story, the Urban Planning Development Authority of Qatar commissioned SUPG to set out strategic master plans for two of the largest and significant municipalities in Qatar. Al Khor and Al Wakra, home to the country’s primary natural gas and oil refining facilities, is expected to face rapid economic and population growth over the next 25 years- a time line too short compared to the municipalities’ long history. Al Khor’s history dates back to 1200 BC when it was once a small fishing village by the bay in the north-eastern coast of the country. This fishing village was a source of purple dye- a dye so rare that it was only used by Mesopotamian royalties. In the later years, the fishing village became a famous source for quality natural pearls; but this industry soon faded when cultured pearls were introduced. It as if Al Khor would remain as a quaint fishing village if not for the discovery of natural gas in 1970. Dubbed as the largest single non-associated natural gas field in the world, North Field is being tapped by Ras Laffan Industrial City- one of the fastest growing industrial cities today. It is by no surprise that in 30 years Al Khor has grown from a small fishing village into Qatar’s Northern Regional Centre. Development has its price; 30 years of urban development driven by rapid modernization and by an industry far different from the traditional waterfront industries had the city turn its back from its waterfront heritage. By 1990, most of the Al Khor’s tight-knit urban fabric and bustling souq areas were replaced by gridiron streets; and by 1995, Al Khor was finally disconnected from the waterfront with the construction of a concrete bund and a major road by the coast. But all is not lost. Al Khor still has numerous heritage sites, a comparatively traditional and low-rise urban fabric, a fishing industry, and a pristine turquoise-coloured bay. The Planning Approach The challenge of the future is clear- to find a balance between encouraging economic growth and maintaining/enhancing Al Khor’s natural and heritage assets to be enjoyed by generations to come. SUPG’s approach to this challenge is a multi-level strategic master plan for Al Khor. Starting with a strong foundation of data analysis and socio-economic and real estate study, the master plan sets out a comprehensive plan at the regional, city, and downtown levels; each level recognizing valuable feedback and inputs from the stakeholders and the public. Al Khor Municipality: The Emerald Oasis At the regional level, Al Khor is envisioned as the ‘Emerald Oasis’- a vision encapsulating its vibrant role as the northern regional centre and as the country’s green lung. Urban areas are tied together like a string of pearls along a network of agricultural land, parks, mangrove forests, and water bodies. The largest among these pearls is Al Khor City. Al Khor City: The Waterfront City by the Bay Al Khor City is planned as the ‘Waterfront City by the bay’- recapturing the City’s waterfront heritage with idyllic waterfront communities, City and Waterfront Parks, and a downtown located at the historic centre of Al Khor. This downtown will play a pivotal role in the overall master planning efforts for Al Khor. It will be the regional centre, the City’s redevelopment catalyst, and the new icon of Al Khor’s re-embraced waterfront heritage. Al Khor Downtown: The Pearl of the Oasis The 50-ha Al Khor Downtown is the Municipality’s centrepiece redevelopment project which will restore the historic City centre to be Qatar’s Northern Regional Centre. Nestled by the Khor Shaqiq Bay and waterfront parks, the Downtown is envisioned as the “Pearl of the Oasis`. It will take its inspiration from the City’s waterfront heritage, traditional urban form, and rich culture to instil a new sense of civic pride and a refreshing contrast to modern developments outside the City. Heritage Inspired There are 9 heritage sites in Al Khor Downtown but one can barely identify them as they are inconspicuously located and isolated among the rest of the City. The Heritage Walk, a network of heritage-themed promenades, will string together these heritage sites. Conserved and re-used as history and maritime museums, it will offer a vibrant visual narrative of Al Khor’s rich history. One of the key nodes along the Heritage Walk is the reconstructed traditional souq and the Bin Abdul Wahab Mosque. The souq will resurrect Al Khor’s tight-knit and charming urban spaces dating back from the 1950s as a vibrant souq for gold, fabric, pearls, and other traditional merchandise. Atop a slope and cascades of plazas and water pools, it will offer picturesque views of the bay. Waterfront Re-embraced Al Khor Downtown re-embraces the waterfront by diverting the major road along the coast and by removing the concrete bund to re-establish the natural coastline. An iconic public space- Al Khor Steps- comprising of cascading plazas, water pools, outdoor dining and performance areas will provide vibrancy along the waterfront. Pathways carved-in the cascades offer shaded areas for pedestrians during the day and a spectacular light show by night. Culture Enriched Qatar has a lot to offer with its unique culture. New and existing cultural and religious facilities would be enhanced to offer memorable experiences and exciting destinations. Gleaming by the coast is the Pearl Cultural Centre- an iconic building wrapped with an intricate Arabic pattern of steel and bronze. It will be complimented by an outdoor amphitheatre, Sculpture Park and a youth park. The religious centre of Al Khor will also be enhanced. From the waterfront, a grand promenade with reflecting pools and wide Islamic arches will offer a picturesque view of the Grand Mosque’s minaret.


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