The Doha Modern Playground, a new public commission by Shezad Dawood, features four play objects and two bench designs that are based on iconic buildings realised between 1962 and 1987 in Doha at the height of Qatar’s modern era: the Ministry of Information & National Theatre Complex; the Doha Sheraton Hotel; Qatar University; the Central Post Office; the Gulf Hotel; and Dar Al Kutub. The architectural miniatures turned playground objects reference the design of structures that played a vital role in transforming Qatar into a modern and post-colonial state, beginning in the early 1970s. Although by that point there were cinemas, a theatre, a post office and hotels in Qatar, these buildings in particular signalled a turning point during which the services they provided were elevated by the state and in some cases institutionalised.
The impact of this overarching architectural project, instrumental to the fashioning of a modern society in Qatar, has only in recent years begun to receive the attention it deserves by scholars and practitioners — namely by the local architect Fatma Al Sehlawi, with whom Dawood collaborated on the research for the project. In Sehlawi's words, the commission is an "important milestone in [this ongoing] research . . . designed by [Dawood] to cement the importance of such a significant architectural era."
Dawood's playground brings into relief important elements of Qatar's architectural and social histories, and, through a forthcoming publication, the project documents communities' impressions of their built environment and the personal stories connected with them.
As new architectural projects develop at speed in contemporary Qatar, Dawood's Doha Modern Playground at once articulates the need for the archiving, preservation and protection of histories past, while celebrating the unique beauty of these six architectural structures by inviting children, park visitors and art enthusiasts to explore the shape of modernity through play.
About the Artist
London-based artist Shezad Dawood (b. 1974) works across the disciplines of film, performance, painting, neon, sculpture and virtual reality. His practice often involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, mapping across multiple audiences and communities to create richly layered artworks.