Team: Marwan Zgheib
This three-million-square-metre master plan in the heart of Qatar’s desert is an ambitious attempt to design a city from scratch and yet enliven it with an urban fabric based on traditional Islamic cities. The idyllic town, called Valley City Qatar, would offer its citizenry – some 60,000 middle-income Qataris and a growing population of expatriates – an energy-efficient oasis of livability and easy access to generous swaths of parkland.
The plan consists of “urban fingers” that run parallel to one another and form narrow streets lined with low-rise residential buildings. The fingers then split apart at the centre to reveal a meandering valley of greenery. Punctuated with sports and cultural hubs, the green ribbon would be virtually car-free, with bus transit routes supplementing pedestrian pathways. To benefit from the natural trajectory of the desert winds, the urban grid would run perpendicular to the air currents, letting them circulate through the valley and act as a natural cooling system. Narrow roads would provide shading to lessen the effects of the hot climate, and living roofs and solar panels would lighten energy loads.
Masterminding a sustainable environment in a desert – and one that appeals on such a human scale – is ambitious in its own right. But, more importantly, MZ has tapped the cultural heart of the region and elevated its plan well beyond the usual high-rise schemes now in the works throughout the Middle East. Valley City Qatar is remarkable for engaging the area’s rich urban history rather than imposing westernized ideals.
THE FIRM Founded in 2002, MZ Architects is an award-winning office led by Marwan Zgheib. Initially based in Qatar but now with headquarters in Lebanon, the team of 50 has a satellite office in Abu Dhabi. MZ came to prominence with a series of winning international competitions and distinctive buildings, including the Al Dana Tower and the W Doha Hotel and Residences in Doha.
What the jury said:
“This is the kind of densification plan that, at its core, benefits people enormously. It’s ideal for the Middle East, but it could also work in California or Toronto. It’s a great model for future cities.”
– Ken Smith, Ken Smith Workshop