Al Sahan City
Al Sahan City is identified as one of the best conceptual master plan proposals for Doha Airport City-Qatar. Taking its inspiration from the traditional ‘sahan’, or the Arabic courtyard house, Al Sahan City possesses an identity and role that is unique from other megaprojects in Qatar. Located south of Doha on the 1400-ha current airport site (to be decommissioned by 2012), Al Sahan City is expected to initiate the revitalization of an area which has remained underutilised due to the lack of readily available land for such significant urban renewal projects in the past. The strategic task of putting together an appropriate and locally relevant concept plan for the site was undertaken by a collaborative team of planners and architects who have previously worked on the master plans for 2 of the country’s key municipalities, as well as Qatar’s leading authority in vernacular architecture. The outcome is a holistic vision and concept that is functional and contextual, reinforces the important socio-cultural role of built spaces, and provides an urban renewal strategy to introduce a vibrant mixed-use development that grows from the site’s context and Qatar’s tradition and heritage. Concept A “City Inspired by Tradition`, Al Sahan City presents a contemporary take on the traditional Arabic courtyard house by broadening its functional, socio-cultural, and environmental significance. Al Sahan City shapes its urban form, programs its land uses, and designs its meaningful public and private spaces in the same manner traditional courtyard houses provide common venues for interaction under the shade, comfort and privacy given by its surrounding rooms. By reintroducing courtyards in Qatar’s modern urban setting, Al Sahan City will offer a bold and fresh planning and design approach that strongly responds to aspirations of reviving the lost courtyard spaces and the values it represents: hospitality, community, privacy, and respect for the environment. Land Use and Structure Ushering this socio-cultural renewal is a creative mix of land use that redefines the way of doing business, provides convenient living and lifestyle choices, and a variety of commercial, cultural and institutional facilities. Positioned to capitalize on the site’s location, land value, accessibility to and synergies with Doha and the New Doha International Airport (NDIA), Al Sahan City will feature developments that not only complement airport activities, but offer choice lifestyle alternatives to those found in Doha. There are 4 main development districts in Al Sahan City, each framing the grand courtyard and providing an interface to the surrounding area. The north is a business and entertainment district for regional branch and IT offices, traditional souqs, shopping malls, hotels, MICE, and leisure facilities that capitalize on the site’s prime airport address, waterfront location, and proximity to the West Bay CBD. Leveraging on the highly-trafficked Al Matar Road in the west is a mixed-use district which will initiate the redevelopment of the existing commercial street. Along the eastern boundaries is a hi-tech business park district connecting with the proposed logistics zone in the NDIA. Finally, a range of housing typologies are found in the southern residential district which include villa housing to attract Qatari families, as well as multi-family dwellings for professionals and airport staff. Giving structure and identity to these districts are Al Sahan City’s courtyards. From the grand and civic to the intimate and private, courtyards embody the important values that have long been cherished by Qataris. The Main Sahan, Qatar’s grandest courtyard, epitomizes the warm hospitality that greets the world in Qatar. Recreating the traditional welcoming rites of incense burning, the makhbar-shaped transport hub will be a main point of entry into the opulence of the Main Sahan. This grand courtyard offers visitors respite with its series of picturesque nodes, gardens and waterways that are reminiscent of the b’ir (well) in traditional courtyards. Located at the heart of Al Sahan City, the grand mosque symbolizes Islam’s importance in society. Islam is also ingrained in Al Sahan City’s public spaces to emphasise the belief that religion should not just be confined within the mosques. This is evident in the gardens and water canals of the Main Sahan which are designed as an Islamic garden of paradise, and in the community and neighbourhood courtyards which are embroidered with calligraphies of Quranic verses. In communities and neighbourhoods, courtyards play an important role in fostering strong community bonds, promoting a convenient and healthy lifestyle, and ensuring a safe place for families and an appropriate degree of privacy. The courtyard is therefore used to inspire the spatial arrangement of Al Sahan’s residential communities and neighbourhoods. Centrally located in every neighbourhood and segregated from vehicular traffic, courtyards are within walking distance from every home. Special consideration is also given to ladies and children in the design of semi-private courtyards which are either framed by villa clusters in low-rise developments, or elevated as sky courtyards in mid/high-rise developments. At the unit level, a private courtyard, located at the heart of every home, ensures privacy with its surrounding rooms and with the use of mushrabiya (ornamental screens). The Courtyard: Fundamentally Sustainable The courtyard house design lends itself naturally to basic sustainable design principles. Each unit’s west-oriented massing and voluminous openings provide private courtyards with shade, natural light, ventilation and comfort. The basic environmental design principles of the courtyard are also applied to the overall urban form and massing of Al Sahan City with higher massing in the west to offer shade to courtyard districts below. The Main Sahan’s northeast opening funnels the prevailing winds to offer natural cooling into the city. Heritage Celebration Al Sahan City also places high significance on the conservation of Qatar’s rich culture and heritage. Its centrepiece development is an Arabic lantern inspired cultural centre and a themed traditional souq. Culture and heritage are also showcased in buildings designed in contemporary Qatari architecture and in neighbourhood courtyard landscaping patterned after the kilim ( Bedouin carpets). Courtyards have shaped Qatar’s vibrant past and Al Sahan City- Qatar’s grandest courtyard- will continue to mould the country’s modern development in a way that is rooted in tradition.


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