I just happened to be in Doha when yet another Doha Architecture Forum took place and it saved me from another boring hotel evening with my computer. Making Cities Public was discussion topic at the very end of Museum of Islamic Art park with magnificient silhuette of Doha West bay as a background.
Panelists in this discussion were egyptian architect Rami el Samahy and calligraffiti artist el Seed with tunesian roots but grown up in France. Panelists presented their ideas and works and then there was open discussion. Initially, when speaking and defining the public space in cities, streets were not even mentioned. Then El Seed presented his calligraphic graffiti art projects and especially the Salwa road underpass project with 720 meter long graffiti.
I find it generally a good idea to use art and legal graffiti to make highways look better than just concrete. However, to enjoy this art you would have to slow down, but it can seriously affect your health as all the Qataries in their Ferraries will get horny and flashy behind you. It is the place where bicycles and pedestrians are not allowed. So perhaps friday morning is the only time to really go (drive) and enjoy Salwa road art. It is not a museum, but no-one expects you to run through Museum of Islamic Art. Also in this video the movement between frames does not happen in 100 kph speed.
Allah did not want me to become an architect, but still I have designed lots of public space as an engineer. The difference between public space and a road is speed. When you fill roads with people they become streets. Fill streets with cars and they become roads.
I like a lot different bits and pieces of Doha. "National" wealth is largely invested to show arabic hospitality. Most of the space and even buildings are open, well thougth and all that without much public hearing (this was mildly touched during discussion). Actually I don't think that public participation is the key to successful planning of liveable cities. It is rather hiring the people with competencies, experience and visions. It is thinking about people (the public) as endusers, the ultimate customers, not as managers of the city. Not only asking for they needs, but going much further. To the unexpected.
And there is only one thing in Doha that disturbs me. There are no streets that connect the bits and pieces to make it a whole experience. I have risked my life several times to walk from Souq Waqif to Museum of Islamic art and crossing the Al Corniche "street". This time I took a taxi.
Road art is a good way to spend some leftovers, but it would be much better to spend on street art. If Qatar(ies) deserves the best of course.