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  • 1. Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Department of Architecture College of Engineering and Petroleum, Kuwait University
  • 2. BACKGROUND
    • 1978 Received B.Sc. in Architecture from Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
    • 1978 to 1984 Practiced and taught architecture in Cairo, Egypt.
    • 1990 Received Doctorate in Architecture degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
    • 1990 to 1993 Practiced and taught in Cairo, Egypt.
    • 1993 to 1999 Assistant professor of architecture, the United Arab Emirates University.
    • 1999 Associate professor of architecture at Ain Shams University Cairo, Egypt.
    • 1999 to date Assistant Professor of Architecture, Kuwait University.
    • Interests : Architectural design, Socio-cultural aspects of architecture, Post Occupancy Evaluation, Professional practice.
    Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Department of Architecture College of Engineering, Kuwait University
  • 3. Contents
      • 20 Minutes Movie
      • 20 Minutes Lecture
      • 20 Minutes Discussion
    Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Department of Architecture College of Engineering, Kuwait University
  • 4. Introduction
    • The phenomenon of expressing cultural identity in architecture is recognized in many parts of the world .
    • It started after the spread of the international style , during the second half of the 20th century, and intensified as a result of the spread of globalization as a dominating world view at the end of the century.
  • 5. Aims, Goals, and Objectives
    • This is an attempt to understand how cultural identity is being expressed in contemporary architecture in Kuwait .
    • It focuses on the architects , and the mechanisms, tools, and media they use to express a cultural identity in their architecture.
  • 6. Summary
    • The aim of this study is to understand the views of Kuwaiti architects participating in the current efforts for achieving cultural identity in architecture in Kuwait.
    • Their opinions are critical to the understanding of architecture currently being produced in Kuwait and their attempts to express cultural identity influence the making and development of architecture in Kuwait.
  • 7. Summary
    • A survey of the views of Kuwaiti architects was conducted using focused interviews and a standardized questionnaire .
    • A sample of Kuwaiti architects was selected for the purpose of in depth study and examples of their projects were analyzed .
  • 8. Summary
    • The study concluded that there are several strategies employed by Kuwaiti architects to express a cultural identity.
    • A three dimensional model was developed to illustrate the relationship between strategies, the use of precedent and the building types.
  • 9. Summary
    • The model is useful for understanding the current trend towards achieving a cultural identity in architecture in Kuwait .
    • It is also relevant to the understanding of the same phenomenon recognized in other parts of the world .
  • 10. The Context
    • Kuwait has passed through dramatic transformations during the second half of the 20th century that were the result of economic, political, regional and global changes .
  • 11. The Context
    • Changes in Kuwait started with the discovery of oil during the 1940’s, the first Master Plan in 1952 and its execution during the 50’s and 60’s , the economic boom during the 1970’s following the dramatic increase of oil prices in 1973, the economic depression during the 1980’s following the stock market crash, and finally the experience of invasion and liberation during the 1990’s .
  • 12. Kuwait Master Plans
    • Several master plans were developed to guide the rapid urbanization of Kuwait. They included:
    • The First Master Plan by Monoprio, Spencely and Macfarlane in 1952.
    • The Second Master Plan by Colin Buchanan and Partners in 1968.
    • First Review of the 2nd Master Plan by Shankland Cox Partnership in 1977
    • Re-examination of Master Plan by Colin Buchanan and Partners in 1983
    • A proposed Third Master Plan by Kuwait Municipality in 1997.
    • Currently, Kuwait Engineering Group in collaboration with Colin Buchanan were commissioned to develop a new master plan review in 2003.
    1 2 3 4
  • 13. Expressing Cultural Identity in Kuwaiti Architecture
    • Attempts towards expressing cultural identity in Kuwaiti architecture is not new .
    • It started with attempts by foreign architects who participated in the design of buildings after the implementation of the first master plan in Kuwait during the 1970’s.
  • 14. Expressing Cultural Identity in Kuwaiti Architecture
    • The work of Jorn Utzon in the design of the Parliament Building , Reima Pietilae in the design of the new Sief Palace, and the Water Towers by Sony Lyndstrom are examples of landmarks designed by foreign architects expressing a cultural identity.
  • 15. Expressing Cultural Identity in Kuwaiti Architecture
    • The work of Jorn Utzon in the design of the Parliament Building, Reima Pietilae in the design of the new Sief Palace, and the Water Towers by Sony Lyndstrom are examples of landmarks designed by foreign architects expressing a cultural identity.
  • 16. Expressing Cultural Identity in Kuwaiti Architecture
    • The work of Jorn Utzon in the design of the Parliament Building, Reima Pietilae in the design of the new Sief Palace, and the Water Towers by Sony Lyndstrom are examples of landmarks designed by foreign architects expressing a cultural identity.
  • 17. What is cultural identity?
    • Firstly , it is a process , and not a ‘found’ object . It may be likened to the trail left by civilization as it moves through history . The trail is the culture , or identity , of that civilization.
    • Secondly , being a process, identity cannot be fabricated . We develop our identity by tackling what we perceive to be our real problems .
    • Thirdly , identity is not a self-conscious thing
    • Charles Correa, Quest for Identity. 1983
  • 18.
    • Neil Leach (2003) challenged the whole notion of identity as some fixed and stable condition . He stated that, “ identities must be perceived in the plural , as multiple and often seemingly contradictory modes of personal expression .”
    • Identity is always pluralistic, fluid and unstable . It is continuously constructed and reproduced by the collective imagination of the community.
    What is cultural identity?
    • Identity is always pluralistic, fluid and unstable . It is continuously constructed and reproduced by the collective imagination of the community.
  • 19. What is cultural identity?
    • There are those who express cultural identity by borrowing from traditional architecture believing that the sources of cultural identity are derived from the past , and there are those who express a cultural identity that relates to today’s prosperity and future ambitions .
  • 20. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • In recent years the issue of cultural identity in contemporary architecture has become essential in creating uniqueness and local identity in a competitive environment on a global level .
    • Industrialized and developing countries have started to re-examine their traditions in search for their own values and principles.
  • 21. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • “ In the process of economic and cultural globalization, European integration and the blur of national identities in Europe , place identity emerges as a central concern of both scholars and other people.”
    • Gospodini, 2004
  • 22. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • In Singapore , architects vigorously adopted transformed and integrated traditions to reflect contemporary realities such as fast evolving cultures, values and lifestyles. The notion of contemporary vernacular was developed.
  • 23. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • It can be defined as a conscious commitment to uncover a particular tradition’s unique responses to spatial arrangements, place and climate and thereafter exteriorize these established and symbolic identities into creative forms.
    • Lim, 2004
  • 24. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • Ogura et al (2002) attempted to clarify the characteristics of the modern Filipino style introduced by leading architects.
    • One of the most comprehensible expressions of domestic style is the direct quotation of traditional shape.
    • The pursuit of architecture as the product of the Filipino culture for the sake of the enrichment of the Filipino culture is an ongoing problem for architects seeking to realize the Filipino style while designing for present-day expectations.
  • 25. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • Saleh presents an analytical study of the major factors inherent to place identity which have a bearing on the development of visual images to Saudi Arabian cities .
    • He points out that climatic, social, topographic and economical aspects were important factors in the formulation of regionalism .
  • 26. Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
    • He argues that these factors are now weakened by two controversial trends in planning and design of place known as the traditionalism and modernism.
    • He asserts that the professionals use their skill in the incorporation of historical as well as new images of the physical place and structures to enhance their identifiability and recognition in the city.
  • 27.
    • As described by Khattab (2001), "particularly in the case of Kuwait , reasserting the local identity has lately become a matter of great importance especially after Iraq's claims in Kuwait and the Second Gulf War."
    • This was reflected on the architecture being produced in Kuwait by local and Kuwaiti architects in their attempts to recognize and acknowledge the heritage of traditional Kuwaiti architecture during the 1990s.
    Expressing Cultural Identity in Architecture
  • 28. Method of Inquiry
    • This study focuses on the views of the architects , who contribute to the production of cultural identity in architecture in Kuwait and analyzed examples of their projects.
    • For the purpose of this study, a sample composed of eighteen architects was selected from a group of Kuwaiti architects who express cultural identity in their projects.
  • 29. Method of Inquiry
    • The methods used for data collection included; a survey using standardized questionnaire , focused interviews , and the analysis of examples of contemporary Kuwaiti architecture that represent the expression of cultural identity.
    • The questionnaire contained several sections covering the different inquiries.
    • An interview guide was used to guide the in depth interviews with selected architects.
  • 30. Findings
    • The questionnaire responses were statistically analyzed and the in-depth interviews were thematically analyzed to reveal the commonalities and differences of the views of the Kuwaiti architects.
  • 31. Questionnaire Results
    • Regarding Kuwaiti architecture identity, 88% of the respondents agree that there is currently no identity in Kuwaiti architecture while 12% agree that there is an identity expressed in contemporary Kuwaiti architecture.
    • 94% believe that there should be an identity in Kuwaiti architecture and 6% disagree .
  • 32. Questionnaire Results
    • 32% of the respondents agreed that there was a clear architecture identity before 1950 while 5% of the respondents believe that there is identity in Kuwaiti architecture after 2000 .
    • The factors that affect the generation of identity in architecture are: climatic conditions 94%, culture of the society 88%, building codes and regulations 87%, owner 81%, and building technology 47%.
  • 33. Questionnaire Results
    • 100% of the respondents believe that traditional Kuwaiti architecture should be the source, desert architecture 94%, Arab architecture 92%, Gulf architecture 88%, Islamic architecture 87% and lastly International architecture 71%.
    • 100% of the respondents agreed that climate , region and culture should be the sources of identity, while only 75% agree religion is a source of architecture identity.
  • 34. Questionnaire Results
    • As for the elements of Kuwaiti architecture, 94% of the respondents believe that al-housh (the courtyard) and the traditional colors should be used to reflect the Kuwaiti identity in architecture, 88% believe that the dareehz (the entrance), the diwaniyah (the men’s receiving room), and the liwan (the colonnade) should be used to reflect Kuwaiti identity, and only 50% of the respondents believe that the columns should be used to reflect identity.
    • 81% of the respondents believe that more than one traditional element should be used at the same time to reflect a cultural identity in architecture.
  • 35. Questionnaire Results
    • 69% of the respondents believe that Kuwaiti architects are contributing positively to identity in Kuwaiti architecture , while only 27% believe that Kuwait Municipality is contributing positively .
    • 44% believe that local consulting offices are contributing positively in the future to Kuwaiti identity while 31% believe that international consultants are contributing positively.
  • 36. Questionnaire Results
    • 100% of the respondents believe that public buildings should reflect Kuwaiti identity, while 94% believe that governmental buildings and private villas should reflect cultural identity.
  • 37. Questionnaire Results
    • 94% believe that the new Seif palace, Souq Al-Mubarkiah and Souq Al-Zul Wa Al-Bishut reflect Kuwaiti identity.
  • 38. Questionnaire Results
    • Only 13% believe that the Liberation Tower reflect Kuwaiti cultural identity, and only 40% believe that Kuwait towers - the touristic symbol of Kuwait - reflects Kuwaiti identity.
  • 39. Questionnaire Results
    • The respondents selected most important examples that represent Kuwaiti architecture from traditional and contemporary.
    • Traditional examples included: old Seif palace, old houses, diwaniyas , schools, mosques, neighborhoods, and souqs.
  • 40. Questionnaire Results
    • Contemporary examples included: water towers, Kuwait towers, Parliament buildings, Souq Sharq, Souq Al-Zul Wa Al-Bishut, Arab Organizations Headquarter, and the New Seif palace.
  • 41. Interviews Results
    • The interviews were useful for gaining in-depth understanding of the views of Kuwaiti architects.
    • While there were many common themes between the views of the architects, each architect empathized a particular factor.
    • Collectively, the interviews represented a wide range of strategies and approaches to the subject.
  • 42. Interviews Results
    • Due to the absence of an architecture education in Kuwait until 1996, all the architects graduated from schools of architecture in the US during the eighties .
    • All of them were employed in governmental agencies for several years before starting their private professional practice .
    • The following are samples representing the views of some the Kuwaiti architects interviewed for the purpose of this study followed by common themes analysis.
  • 43. Interviews Results
    • Mohammed Al-Khedr believes that “there are some attempts to express identity in Kuwaiti architecture, but no present structure is available that represents identity of Kuwait.”
    • He stated that “ before oil was discovered buildings were constructed using local materials and workers, depending mainly on family’s needs. After oil was discovered, architecture reflects individualism architecture made by foreign architects with good construction.”
    Sha’ab Cooperative Bank of Kuwait and the Middle East branches
  • 44. Interviews Results
    • For him, the expression of family needs in architecture is an important element in the expression of local identity.
    • He asserts that “the traditional desert architecture , characterized by its courtyards and adobe-style construction , should be the source of architectural identity in Kuwait.”
    • The impact of the climatic conditions is another factor that reflects a true architectural identity. The harsh weather condition during the long summer months is an important driving force.
    Yousef Al-Rifai villa Salah Al-Farisi Villa
  • 45. Interviews Results
    • He recognizes that “there is some interest towards reflecting traditional architecture by the public , but for the purpose of being individual only.”
    • “ Kuwait Municipality should have an important role in educating the public and organizing some regulations for general architectural style , but unfortunately the municipality is concerned more about commercial regulations than architectural concerns”, he added.
    Casa Mishrif Complex Remodelling of an elementary schools
  • 46. Interviews Results
    • Fareed Abdal thinks that there is no special architectural identity in Kuwait because many buildings are following the international style .
    • He also thinks that there shouldn’t necessarily be an identity but instead there should be an environmental response to the climate, and thus emphasizing the significance of the region as a whole.
    • He believes that, “Kuwait had an identity during the pre oil period; 1950’s and before , when architecture represented the society's environment and its social identity.”
    The renovation of Sabah al-Naser al-Sabah Palace - Ras Al-Salmeya - Kuwait
  • 47. Interviews Results
    • In his opinion the factors that affect the Kuwaiti architectural identity are natural, cultural, behavioral, economical, material, and technical factors.
    • He believes that, “ the Arab culture is a response to the desert climate and nature, and architecture should represent the environment and our values.”
    • He thinks that “ the more we assume environmental solutions, the more we come closer to our identity .”
    1991 House of Dr. Ghanem Al-Najjar Surra, Kuwait
  • 48. Interviews Results
    • Saleh Al-Mutawa believes that the architectural identity in is lost , but “ I am trying to follow it in all of my projects in order to revive it .”
    • He believes that the era that represents Kuwaiti architecture was before 1940 and that the elements that affects Kuwaiti architecture are: vocabularies, proportion, and materials.
    Al Jabria Residence Salmeya Palace
  • 49. Interviews Results
    • For him the sources of Kuwaiti architecture are “ Islamic and desert architectures .”
    • He believes that “ there should be some incentive for those who try to do Kuwaiti architecture , such as more FAR, etc.”
    Salwa Residence Al Zumoreda
  • 50. Interviews Results
    • Jamal Al-Hajji believes that “Kuwait was really having its identity before 1950 and began to disappear from 1960 . Currently, Kuwait really doesn’t have any identity.”
    • In his opinion, “Kuwait identity is more than the elements used in old Kuwaiti house. The real essence of Kuwait identity lies in the architecture of the traditional city . It is a primarily an experience of spaces. ”
  • 51. Interviews Results
    • He believes that, “we are going through the figural buildings stage that are functionally successful, yet they waste energy and cause pollution in a very bad way.”
    • From his practical experience, the first pressure on the architect is the client . “Very rarely you find a client who has appreciation for identity ”, he added.
    Private villa for Sheikhan Al-Farisi
  • 52. Interviews Results
    • Tariq Al-Saqabi believes that, “ there is nothing called Kuwaiti architecture . What we have is Gulf architecture . What is called the Kuwaiti architecture is existing architecture influenced by traditions and cultures . So there is no Kuwaiti architecture but there are architectural elements . It is not necessary to have an identity that is applied on every building .”
  • 53. Interviews Results
    • In his opinion, the factors that affect the identity of Kuwaiti architecture are environmental , religious , and social factors .
    • In his opinion, the architectural elements that express the Kuwaiti architecture are: “the courtyard , wall thickness , and the badgeer .” He agrees that “there should be building codes that will help to find Kuwaiti architecture.”
  • 54. Outcomes
    • The study revealed that there are commonalities and differences between the views of the Kuwaiti architects regarding the sources of Kuwaiti cultural identity .
    • There is a general agreement that the climate and the environment have a major influence on the culture of the people and the identity of architecture.
  • 55. Outcomes
    • Kuwait’s location on the tip of the Arabian Gulf and its history of sea trading, pearl catching, fishing is part of its traditional cultural identity.
    • Many architects employ the metaphors of the pearl shells and boats making and sails in their buildings .
  • 56. Outcomes
    • The impact of the religion on the culture is very significant and essential for understanding the needs of the individual for privacy, family members interaction, and space configuration and orientation .
    • These needs are currently being modified under the influence of higher economic standards and globalization . The religion is also viewed as a unifying force of the individual with nature and society, a notion opposite to the current trend towards individualism and show-off.
  • 57. Outcomes
    • There is an agreement that there are elements, vocabularies, proportions, and materials that distinguish traditional Kuwaiti architecture , but there is no agreement on whether they should be used again or not.
  • 58. Outcomes
    • Some architects think that the reuse of these elements and vocabulary is essential to achieve a distinctive Kuwaiti architectural identity that relates contemporary architecture to traditional architecture.
    • Others believe that it is not a necessity to use these elements and vocabularies but it is essential to respond to the climatic conditions and the specific needs of the Kuwaiti people.
  • 59. Outcomes
    • There is recognition that buildings alone are not sufficient to convey the cultural identity .
    • The context of architecture provides an important background against which architecture is understood .
    • The traditional city spaces provided an important dimension to the experience and provided a meaningful reading of traditional architecture buildings. When placed against modern streets and buildings, traditional elements and vocabularies read more like Disney World than authentic architecture.
  • 60. Discussion
    • The analysis of several examples of the architects’ projects concluded that there are several strategies employed by Kuwaiti architects to express a Kuwaiti cultural identity in their work .
    • A three dimensional model was developed to illustrate the relationship between the ranges of these strategies and the use of precedent and the building types.
  • 61. Discussion
    • The model represents the relationship between these design strategies, sources of identity and building types and scales .
    • The model utilizes the four design strategies suggested by Broadbent (1973) to categorize the examples. They are identified as pragmatic , iconic , analogical and canonic . Two more strategies were added to complete the range of the identified strategies; symbolic and metaphoric .
  • 62. Discussion
    • They are utilized in the model according to the following definitions:
    • 1. Pragmatic design strategy utilizes the inheritance from traditional architecture and strives to reproduce it as it was exactly in the past . It applies direct copy and paste practices of complete examples or elements from traditional architecture.
    • 2. Iconic design strategy strives to reproduce the image of traditional architecture by reusing its elements and vocabularies to produce new building types and functions .
    • 3. Analogic design strategy attempts to produce cultural identity by producing architecture that resembles traditional architecture without direct copying and pasting of its elements .
    • 4. Canonic design strategy attempts to produce cultural identity by applying the principles of traditional architecture without copying its elements and shapes .
    • 5. Symbolic design strategy attempts to represent and reinterpret the principles and elements of traditional architecture and avoids any copying and pasting of elements and shapes .
    • 6. Metaphoric design strategy attempts to intentionally depart from being associated with traditional architecture and creates dramatic experiences of contemporary cultural identity.
  • 63. The X-axis The Y-axis The Z-axis Kuwaiti Regional Gulf Arab Islamic International Climatic Public State/Official Governmental Private Semi-Public Institutional Pragmatic Metaphoric Canonic Iconic Analogic Symbolic
  • 64. Public State/Official Governmental Kuwaiti Regional Gulf Arab Islamic International Private Pragmatic Metaphoric Canonic Iconic Analogic Symbolic Semi-Public Institutional
  • 65. Discussion
    • The results of this study supports the view of Greig Crysler (2000) that a paradigm shift is underway, in which discourses that define traditional environments as socially and geographically isolated, nonurban, premodern spaces (and often located in the so-called Third World) are giving way to those which constitute tradition as a contested site of power relations in a global context .
    • He suggests that this represents an important shift of emphasis away from idealist conceptions of tradition, to those which explore how it is grounded in asymmetrical relations of power that shape, and are shaped by, among others, the state, the global economy, the built environment professions, and writing on tradition itself .
  • 66. Applicability to Field and Further Research
    • This study investigated the views of Kuwaiti architects who are participating in the production of cultural identity in their architecture.
    • It analyzed examples of Kuwaiti architects examples and developed a model to relate their work to each other and to sources of cultural identity.
    • The case of Kuwait is relevant to the understanding of the same phenomenon recognized in other parts of the world that share many aspects of this experience.
    • It helps us understand the contradictory relationship between globalization and identity as practiced in Kuwait.
  • 67. Applicability to Field and Further Research
    • The model developed by this study is useful for practitioners and observers of contemporary architecture in Kuwait in understanding the current trend towards achieving a cultural identity in architecture.
    • Further research could include expatriate architects currently practicing in Kuwait and compare their views with local Kuwaiti architects. Another research could focus on the comparison between developing and industrialized countries in terms of architects’ views regarding the representation of cultural identity in architecture.
    • This is a new trend that is just starting and is changing with more and more Kuwaiti architects joining the profession. Local architects now have better opportunities to produce original innovative work, and to actively contribute towards architectural manifestation and new directions in the evolving urban environment.
  • 68. Recommendations
    • The study suggests the following venues for action to start with:
      • Building codes and regulations should be revised and integrate lessons from the traditional architecture of the country.
      • Architectural education should incorporate in its curriculum approaches to understanding globalization and localization processes.
      • Professional practice should encourage architects who express cultural identity in their work through competitions and awards.
      • The public awareness should be fostered by public lecture, professional writings and the media.
      • Sustainable architecture and urban development responsive to and expressive of its geographical and climatic situation should be encouraged and become common practice.
  • 69. Conclusion
    • The quest for identity should be applied on all levels . As Silva (2001) put it, it is usually the whole building fabric, rather than individual buildings that matters most to the identity and of a setting .
    • The character of a town reside in the sum of its multiple and often fragmented inter-relationships in space between buildings themselves , the social mix of people , its activities and events , and the wider geographical setting of the town .
  • 70. Conclusion
    • There is always a cultural identity expressed in architecture.
    • The expression might differ from one architect to the other and from one building to the other .
  • 71. Conclusion
    • The collective image of these identities conveys the degree of agreement or disagreement, commonalities and differences, harmony and contrast between the members of the society at any given period of time .
    • It reflects their shared or non-shared view of past, present and future of the world.
  • 72. Discussion Questions
    • Do you think that there is something called “cultural identity”?
    • Do you think that it should be expressed in architecture?
    • If so, how do you thing that it should be represented?
    • If no, what does or should architecture represent?
  • 73. Thank You.