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When Doha met “The Binnenhof”

Being back on my feet since after a rather turbulent 2013, it was a true delight to welcome an inspiring group of innovators and can-do entrepreneurs from the world of urban design and architecture. On the occasion of TEDxBinnenhof The Netherlands Embassy brought together industry leaders and visionaries from Dutch and Qatari descent during a thought leadership conversation in Doha. TEDxBinnenhof is the one TEDx format live-casted to over 40 countries simultaneously.

If you’re unfamiliar with the topic, Urban design involves the arrangement and design of buildings, public spaces, transport systems and services. It really is about the art of creating and shaping cities and towns. “A great city should be an inventory of the possible”, philosopher Rene Descartes once said about Amsterdam. Qatar is experiencing major urban development with tons of construction projects currently being undertaken. One of my panel members noted that Qatar likes to actively promote itself as architecture destination, but at the same time triggered questions as food for thought.

For example, is architecture reflecting tradition or aspiration? How do you preserve the core identity of a people reflected in your designs, while aiming to be competitive with other global cities? And how to do this in a socially sustainable manner too? To put this in perspective, Qatar produces more than 7,000 tonnes of solid waste every day, with commercial and industrial activities accounting for 70% of the grand total. It was a true delight to have Caroline Bos (co-founder UN Studio) and Rogier van der Heide (Chief Design Officer, Philips Lighting), as keynote speakers. Ameena Ahmadi from Qatar Foundation and Nasser Alamadi from Qatar Museums Authority completed the expert panel of four.

In the meantime, The Hague was gearing up for their main course in the historic ‘Ridderzaal’ featuring Holland’s most innovative thinkers and do-ers. Connected by the internet, we were part of that too with a simulated live feed from our session beamed straight into the main event in “The Ridderzaal”. Amongst the speakers, (singing) Marjolein Helder of Plant-e, who can make electricity out of living plants and received a standing ovation for her innovative solution and talented voice. So just imagine an integrated urban design where nature provides part of our energy need. It seems to become reality.

This event made me aware that the Dutch industry of architecture and urban design is another one example of a world class standard. Bilateral ties were strengthened and I am sure both the Dutch and Qatari will take the stage again at TEDxBinnenhof 2015, perhaps even powered by plants.