The renovation of Souq Waqif was carried out after an extensive study and research on the traditional Qatari architecture and about 75 percent of the structures in were revived in their original form, says Mohamed Al Abdullah, designer of the project.
Abdullah dwelt on how he rediscovered the history and architecture of the Souq to give its new form, during a presentation at a symposium on “Architecture and Urbanism: rooting contemporary developments in local heritage” on the sidelines of the Qatar Real Estate Exhibition that concluded here last week.
The designer had to rely on some old photographs and stories told by old people most of whom he met in the Souq itself. He travelled across the Gulf coast to study about the traditional buildings in the region, which helped him a lot in reviving the old buildings in the souq without losing their identity and originality.
Mohamed Ali Abdullah gives a presentation on reviving the traditional architecture in Souq Waqif at the Qatar International Exhibition Center yesterday.Shaival Dalal
“Many old people whom I met in the area referred to a wall that existed more than a century ago. It is believed that the wall was built by Sheikh Qassim bin Mohammed Al Thani (who is considered the founder of modern Qatar) to protect the country during the historic battle with the Ottomans. The wall disappeared after 15 years,” said Al Abdullah.
There was also a creek dividing the area where the Souq Waqif is now located. The banks of the creek emerged as a market place, as people found it an ideal location to sell and buy goods.
Souq Waqif is a popular name in the Gulf and there are souqs in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with the same name.
“The renovation of Souq Waqif started in January 2004 at a 160,000 sq m area. When we started removing the name boards on some old shops, the original structure of the buildings resurfaced,” said Al Abdullah.
The project took him to some historical places on the Gulf coast to explore the traditional architecture of the region.
“ The sea unified people in the region. Environmental and political factors forced people to move from one coast to another, leading to the emergence a common culture and traditions. Their architectural style also reflects this similarity,” said Al Abdullah.
The materials dictated the architecture of the buildings. People used natural stones to build the walls of the buildings and clay was used as a mortar. It was not possible to build walls more than two metres high in this manner.
So wooden lintels (Rukniyat) and panels were used to support the stone walls. This became a common feature of all the buildings in this region.
“There is nothing hidden in these buildings and the structure is quite visible. People also didn’t use colours to decorate the buildings. They retain the natural colour of the stones and the material used for plastering,” said Al Abdullah. A special stone called Furoosh was mostly used for the buildings. “ While renovating Souq Waqif, we used an alternative material that looked very similar to Furoosh. If we go for the original Furoosh and the natural clay, we would end up destroying the coral life in the sea and precious plants in the desert. So we decided to avoid that,” explained Al Abdullah.
No cement nor steel was used in the renovation of the old buildings in the Souq, he told The Peninsula later. The bamboo for the wooden lintels and the teak wood for the doors were brought from countries like India, Burma and Zanzibar
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