A Shelter for Cricket Communities in Qatar

The Shelters is a design assignment that three design and art professionals from VCUArts Qatar took upon to create temporary landmarks that serve the Doha cricket community by providing shade and rest opportunities for the people playing games under the scorching Qatari sun.

Qatar has a huge floating population and people from each community lookout for means to bond in this place away from home. Cricket is one such activity that is a popular sport among the South Asian community in Doha. If you drive around the city on an early Friday morning, you will find groups of men playing in improvised pitches on vacant dirt lots or in empty parking areas. For these people, cricket is a hard-fought game and a social ritual that brings together the community. It is an opportunity to relax and connect with people from different social backgrounds that share the same passion.

Despite the considerable number of players that practice street cricket on weekends, there is very little infrastructure to support their game. That is until this caught the attention of two VCUarts Qatar design professors from Italy, Marco Bruno and Simone Carena co-creators of MOTOElastico, a multi-disciplinary firm that has its base in Korea and Italy and now in Doha. A firm that is described as a harmonic motion between two different realities: Korea and Italy and now Qatar, research and business, dream and reality, quality, and quantity.

“We constantly swing between all of them without losing any of our design energy,” explains Bruno.

So how did this project get the attention of the designers?

“We did a lot of research (for the Borrowed City book) on informal spaces and the way people temporarily occupy public areas to do all sorts of things: work, sell something, or gather as a community. Cricket in Qatar on a Friday morning is for sure an interesting temporary occupation: it is a very interesting social phenomenon and it was natural for us to look at it and try to design something that could shed some light on it. Michael Perrone is always interested in bringing art to places that do not usually have any: highway underpasses or basketball courts,” says Bruno, explaining the coming together of creative thoughts and forces resulting in the design exercise.

 “It was a very spontaneous convergence for the three of us to start thinking about the idea of doing shelters for the cricket community,” he says.

“The aim of the Shelters project is to celebrate the value of the cricket community by providing two structures that can serve as gathering and resting areas.

“The Shelters are inspired by the temporary safety spaces built for the workers next to large construction sites. These refuges are made of scaffolding metal pipes covered with synthetic mesh and they are usually equipped with wood benches and basic safety gears,” explains Carena.

Can the Shelter be expanded and put together with minimum professional help?

“The current project is a prototype with a strong artistic connotation. If we will continue this project, we will have to develop a system that takes into consideration the production of multiple pieces in an effective way. The project is already modular, based on the variation of a hexagonal structure (see drawings). It will not be very difficult to turn it into mass production,” muses Bruno.

The two Shelters that were realised are fabricated with similar technology. The main structure is built with metallic pipes while the cover is made of fabric normally utilised in parking shades. Inside there is a gathering space and a few wood benches that will allow the people to comfortably watch the game. The entire structure is removable and can be eventually transported and installed in a different location. Though large in its structure, its top part takes an angle for stability yet the seating seems not greater than 15, making this structure useful for players to rest in between the game or for those who need a respite from the sun.

The large surface of the external fabric is painted by Michael Perrone with atmospheric shades to merge the shelters into the surrounding urban landscape. The project’s goal is to use art and design to create a series of small landmarks that will positively help shift the current perception of street cricket in Doha.

As MOTOElastico oscillates between design and art, bringing public attention to community sports, they know that they have a great potential in public projects that can have a positive impact on local communities, like this one or Studio 7.

“At the same time, we keep our home base in Korea where we are currently working on a few things including the space design of the 2023 Gwangju Design Exhibition. More projects will hopefully come soon. It is challenging being in different parts of the world, but it keeps you receptive and aware of the beautiful differences that you can encounter in people, spaces, and cultures,” says Bruno.

Project by: MOTOElastico & Michael Perrone

Design Team: Marco Bruno, Michael Perrone, Simone Carena

Year: 2002/23

Commissioner: Qatar Museum, Public Art Department

Host: Qatar Cricket Association

Construction: Abdullah Ibrahim Jaidah and son’s

Location: Lusail Cricket Ground, Lusail, Doha, Qatar

Materials: Steel frame, Gale Shadecloth fabric, paint

Photos: Raviv Cohen