The Topo-metric Logic of Space in Two GCC Cities: Doha, Qatar and Muscat, Oman

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In the past, there has been a substantial amount of research examining the topo-metric characteristics of European and American settlements using space syntax (Hillier & Hanson, 1984 and 1986; Hillier, 1996; Carvalho & Penn, 2004; Shpuza, 2014; Major, 2015 and 2018). Such studies highlighted key topo-metric differences in the spatial logic of European and American settlements arising from various socio-economic and cultural factors. It is especially the case when using Major’s (2015 and 2018) rigorous methodology, which controls for axial size (i.e., the gross number of routes represented as axial lines) and the number of cul-de-sacs (i.e., one-connected axial lines) in urban systems. His research identified fundamental topo-metric divergences between settlements of continental Europe and the UK, and American ones ostensibly – though not rigorously – associated with westward expansion in the USA over time. The grander metric scale of American settlements also brought to light the role that topography can play in allowing, limiting, or denying certain possibilities for urban expansion (Major, 2015 and 2018). However, there has been very little research examining the topo-metric parameters of settlements elsewhere in the world to date. The research in this paper begins to address this gap in our knowledge by examining two settlements in the GCC region: Doha, Qatar, and Muscat, Oman. It is also part of a larger study that will eventually incorporate the space syntax modeling of Metropolitan Amman, Jordan (Alomari, 2022), and other metropolitan regions as they become available to researchers in the DAUP-CENG at Qatar University. Doha and Muscat share many similarities in their origins as coastal settlements with ports on the Arabian/Persian Gulf. However, a key difference is terrain: Muscat is mountainous, whereas Doha is relatively flat. Previous studies of Metropolitan Doha and Muscat using space syntax demonstrate this had profound consequences for rapid urbanization in the late 20th and early 21st century (Tannous, 2020; Tannous & Major, 2020). Doha grew in a globally compact, concentric manner radiating outward in all directions from its coastal origins. In contrast, Muscat grew in a locally compact, extended linear fashion in an east-to-west direction to overcome topographical barriers for urban expansion. The paper examines consistencies and covariations in the metric and spatial parameters of Metropolitan Doha and Muscat using Major’s (2015) previous methodology. It includes quantifying and visualization of the total land area, average block size, maximum and mean street and segment lengths, and the maximum and mean values for a variety of spatial parameters, including connectivity, global and local integration, global choice, and mean depth from the most integrated street in the urban spatial network. At the heart of this paper are some key questions: what effect did these differing urban growth patterns have on the metric and spatial parameters of Doha and Muscat, and what might it mean for other settlements of the GCC region?
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5: Uniqueness and connectivity. Al-Baraha: unlocking urban futures
Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning
Qatar University
Mastr's Program student
Qatar University
Qatar University

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