This paper analyses the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) reconstruction of four abandoned villages in northwestern Qatar, Al Ghariya, Al Jumail, Al Khowir, and Al Areesh, using Building Information Modelling (BIM) techniques developed for contemporary architecture to visualise and understand how the villages functioned and were organised. In addition, we isolate specific buildings and analyze their environmental performance through light and shadow studies, thermal performance of the walls and interior spaces, and wind simulations. Through this interrogative process, we are quantitatively exploring the sustainability of traditional building practices and understanding the underlying geometric logic of spatial organization in historic Qatari architecture. This research is an extension of a reconstruction and analysis of Al Jumail I co-published in 2013 in the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The additional village models allow for comments on common patterns and individualisation in village and house construction in Qatar prior to oil and gas development. I also identify the innovative ways in which Qatari people dealt with their environment prior to industrialisation that might be integrated into sensitive regional design today. The analyses focus on the ephemeral qualities of these villages to seek out deeper structures and meaning in the organisation of historic Qatari villages – particularly the inter-relationships between what and where people built and how they lived their everyday lives. Other elements, like the location and storage of water, and proximity to economic resources, such as inter-tidal fish traps, are related back to the BIM analyses and primary and secondary qualitative resources on Islamic architecture and urban design. The mapping and reconstruction of each village is based on a combination of photographic documentation I completed when I was in Qatar in 2013, GIS data from Google Earth, and existing AutoCAD plans of each village. I analyse the two-dimensional plans using DepthMap, a spatial syntax visualisation and analysis program. Through this, I map not only the buildings, but also the primary and secondary arterial routes through each village as well as the geometric relationships between buildings. This allows us to identify structures with higher or lower accessibility and relate these to qualitative data on who lived where and did what within the village. It also measures the rate of penetrability of each structure, which sheds light on how architecture embodies Islamic concepts. One of the things that Besim Selim Hakim discusses in detail in his book, Arabic-Islamic Cities and Planning Principles, is the emergence of planning and house models in conjunction with Islamic jurisprudence and the Madhab, or schools of law. Professor Hakim used Tunis and its development in the 8th century according to 12 principles of Maliki law, much of which revolve around notions of maintaining privacy while allowing public access through the urban core. In our first analysis of Jumayl, we discovered that the highest level of public accessibility, the main public roads are clear and run through the town, radiating out from the central public suq and the community mosque. Secondary roads away from the suq are the second order, with the high walls of the individual houses blocking visibility and accessibility into the private residential spaces. Access to the courtyard of an individual house represents the third order. The access to the internal residence blocks (which also exhibit a subtle hierarchy of spatial access as there can be multiple smaller buildings arranged around the courtyard) is the final and most private order. The spatial syntax analysis software visualises a hierarchy of space and spatial permeability. In other words, there are four orders or levels in a continuum of privacy versus public accessibility that are constructed through the courtyard walls, avenues, and building structure and placement. At play are alternating lines of vision and occlusion that reinforce the Islamic notions of gender, home, function and the organization of public and private spaces. One of the main remaining questions I have, though, is how might the topology - what might be described as the “ambient” land in which a building is placed - impact some of these design decisions. I'm also deeply interested in Harriet Nash's work on how stars were used to determine time and the distribution of water in Oman. What's particularly fascinating to me about Nash's work is her identification of a central nexus along the main falaj (or irrigation canal) from its source in the nearby mountains and how this nexus has a specific site line for stargazing built in. In other words, the arrangement of space that begins with all the elements described by Professor Hakim also includes consideration for all these other ephemeral qualities – including the relationship of the individual to the larger cosmos. I know from my other research in different parts of the Gulf that folk astronomy played a big role in weather prediction and the scheduling of economic events, including both maritime and terrestrial navigation. None of this has been documented for Qatar, so it would be interesting to include an astronomic simulation in the digital analysis to see if there are also star-gazing sites in these primarily fishing villages. I plan to import both the 2d plans and the terrain data into a CAD software and then extrude the 2-dimensional plan into 3 dimensions, matching the models carefully with my own database of geo-located photographs and site notes. The resulting models can then be subjected to a suite of BIM analyses that visualises how the buildings performed in different seasons using recorded climactic data on heat, solar movement, wind, and tides. By correlating the results with pre-existing ethnographic data, the analysis illuminates the ways in which social hierarchy was materially and spatially expressed according to Madhab. The results complement and expand upon the existing literature of Gulf architectural history, which has emphasized the use of passive cooling or visualising the typologies of individual house, but rarely explores the range of these strategies within the context of the buildings’ location and orientation. It also allows us to grasp the complexity and diversity of building and settlement typologies and offers a set of methodologies applicable to the analysis of archaeologically recovered structures and towns. This is particularly relevant to Qatar, given that the historic built environment isn't as comprehensively documented as some of the other countries in the Gulf and that access to water on the peninsula was more limited.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error