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Kuwait City contemporary conditions 2009

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  • 1. Research on the City of Kuwait Contemporary Conditions (2009) Author: Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Introduction: The Moment and the Momentum Money does no make architecture; human effort does. [1] The 1st decade of the 21st century has almost passed and the city state of Kuwait is still in a state of lull. After thecollapse of Saddam Husain’s regime in the northern neighbour Iraq on March 2003, Kuwait was expected to risequickly and regain its lost prestigious status as the “Jewel of the Gulf” that it enjoyed during the 1970’s and 1980’sof the 20th century. It is feared that the stumble block that Kuwait is currently experiencing to last for an extendedperiod of time. Many big projects are delayed, re-bid or cancelled due to political and financial circumstances.Repeated parliament and government resignations and elections is distracting the attention and effort away fromdevelopment and construction. The global economic crisis has affected the ability of developers and contractors toreceive cash flow from banks and financial institutions to complete their projects. Many tower cranes were stoppedand many workers were laid off due to the global economic crisis. The downfall of oil prices and huge losses offinancial investments in world stock markets has resulted in a freeze of the financial cycle. The built environment found in Kuwait today is a product of decisions made during its early stages of planningand construction as well as subsequent decisions made during its development and evolution. It is also a product ofregional and global conditions, circumstances, and situations that Kuwait found itself facing as a result of itsresources, location and international connections. Its crude oil reserve is estimated to be about 104 billion barrels -8% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 95% of export revenues, and 80% of governmentincome. Its $57,400 GPD per capita income (2008 est.) puts it 5 on the world list. [2] Major impact of world eventsillustrate this entanglement with world affairs including its invasion by Iraq and the determination to liberate it by theworld community during the Second Gulf War and its “involuntary” involvement in the Third Gulf War on Iraq. Figure 1. Kuwait Map and Environs. [2] Part 1: Deconstructing the Past Following its liberation on the 26th of February 1991, Kuwait started a reconstruction process of its badlydamaged infrastructure and utilities. Most of its economic resources were utilized to improve its security and militarycapabilities. The continuous existence of the hostile regime of Sadam Hussian in Iraq prevented the country fromdiverting its attention away from security and military priorities. This coincided with major world economic shiftsthat other cities in the region, especially Dubai, benefited from tremendously. The economic development coupledwith a construction boom in the Gulf region during the 1990’s was witnessed with envy by Kuwait. Dubai acquired aworld status by attracting world investments through the implementation of free market trade and open economystrategies. The period between the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and end of Saddam’s regime in Iraq in 2003 witnessedslow development, focus on safety and security and the loss of Kuwait status as the leader of development andmodernization in the region. Page: 1 Date-8/23/2011
  • 2. 1982 Stock Market crash 1940’s discovery of oil 1967 Middle East War 1973 Middle East War 1952 1st Master Plan 1961 Independence 1991 Liberation 2003 Gulf War 1990 Invasion Preoil period Figure 2. Kuwait major events timeline. The downfall of Kuwait’s prestigious status started during the 1980s with the stock market collapse and thedecline of oil prices that slowed down the process of development and construction. The 8-year First Gulf Warbetween Iran and Iraq during 1980s threatened the security of the whole Gulf region and diverted the attentiontowards security. Kuwait had to bear the financial burdens of supporting Iraq during the war. [3] The economic crisiswas followed by the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on the 2 nd of August 1990. During their retreat, the Iraqi ArmedForces practiced a scorched earth policy by setting fire to Kuwaiti oil wells. The fires took over nine months to fullyextinguish, and the cost of repair of oil infrastructure exceeded $5 billion. The damage was also inflicted on a largevariety of building types such as; mosques, government buildings, palaces, public buildings and markets as well asarchitecture landmarks. [4] [5] [6] Private property, houses, hotels, office buildings, university buildings and schoolswere also subject to vandalism and destruction. During the 1970’s, Kuwait has reached the climax of its maturity as newly established state built with oilrevenues according to state of the art urban planning and architecture design practices. The 1973 Middle East Warcaused sharp increase of oil prices and income for Kuwait to initiate a second phase development and modernization.While Kuwait was not directly affected by the war, it benefited from the increase of oil prices that followed the oilembargo to finance its construction plans. Kuwait was the main point of entry of modernization to other Gulfcountries; such as Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. It was the Gulf idol for other emerging countries andparticipated in shaping their modernization and development. International architects were invited to design landmark buildings in Kuwait. They included: Kenzo Tange, JornUtzon, Reima Pietila, Arne Jacobsen, Michel Ecochard and Lindstorm, Egnell and Bjorn. This practice facilitated thedissemination of global trends. The architects employed their own way of thinking that reflected international trendsat that time to design buildings in Kuwait. [1] [3] [6] For example, the design of The Parliament Building by JornUtzon started in 1978 and was completed in 1985. The building resembles an Arabian tent, as a symbol ofhospitality, open to all visitors oriented towards the Gulf to catch the cooling breeze from the sea. The Ministry ofForeign Affairs by Reima Pietila began in 1973 and was completed in 1983. [6] The architects developed aninnovative solution providing a stylistic progression from the traditional to the post-modern forms. They respectedthe height and style of the existing traditional building and used soft, yellow colour of indigenous housing for theexterior walls. They applied several climatic solutions to provide shaded exterior spaces while admitting air tointerior space. [1] Kuwait Towers by Malene Bjorn, the most important landmark on the Gulf Road in Kuwait, wasinaugurated on February 26, 1977. [7] Water is contained in a sculptural form that imitates the traditional Arabianperfume containers. The project is composed of three towers; two towers are used as water containers and the third isa lighting pole. The tallest is 180 meters high and contains 4,500 m3 water reservoir, a 90 guests restaurant, and arotating observatory. The second tower is 140 meters high and is used only as a water reservoir. The spheres are“covered with enamelled plates of steel painted in colour scheme of blues, greens and greys. Page: 2 Date-8/23/2011
  • 3. Figure 3. Parliament Building. Figure 4. Kuwait Towers. The fact that most public buildings in Kuwait were designed by foreign architects and firms was a result ofabsence of qualified local architects and firms that could handle projects of that size. There were not many nativearchitects nor workers to handle this massive amount of work. Many architects and construction workers werebrought from different parts of the world. They were asked to design and construct all new buildings and projectsneeded at that time. They utilized their knowledge and expertise in design, construction and materials to produceddesigns that address the needs and aspirations of their Kuwaiti clients. The integration of traditional elements into themodern design was intended to relate their design to a particular locality and region. The need to develop theselandmark projects was realised after the implementation of the 1 st Master Plan during the Sixties, the period of rapidconstruction and development following Kuwait’s independence from Britain in 1961. Demolition of the traditionalhouses and the replacement of defensive wall by the 1st Ring road was followed by implementation of the 1 st MasterPlan vision of a modern capital city made of wide roads, governmental and public buildings while modern residentialneighbourhoods were being constructed outside the wall. [8] The city continued to expand, more neighbourhoodswere added, and roads expanded. Ring roads were constructed to annex more desert land to the urban area. Anindustrial area was established in Shuwaikh to the west and a shopping and entertainment area was established inSalmiyah to the east. The city stretched along the coastal strip limited by the water of the Gulf to the north and east Page: 3 Date-8/23/2011
  • 4. and oil fields to the south and west. The neighbourhoods of private housing lacked entertainment activities during theevening, while the commercial neighbourhoods of Salmiyah, Farwaniya and Hawalli, which contain shopping andhousing for expatriates, are more lively and full of activities during the evening. Figure 5. Buildings of the Sixties and Seventies. The First Master Plan for Kuwait was developed in 1952 by the British firm Minoprio, Spencely andMacfarlane. [9] The planners’ main objectives were to illustrate and describe the improvements which theyconsidered necessary for the development of Kuwait in accordance with the highest standards of “modern townplanning.” The matters which the consultants regarded as being of primary importance in the re-planning of the townwere: (a) the provision of a modern road system appropriate to the traffic conditions in Kuwait, (b) the location ofsuitable zones for public buildings, industry, commerce, schools, and other purposes, (c) the choice of zones for newhouses and other buildings needed in residential areas, both inside and outside the town wall, (d) the selection of sitesfor parks, sports ground, school playing fields and other open spaces, (e) the creation of a beautiful and dignifiedtown centre, (f) the planting of trees and shrubs along the principal roads and at other important points in the town,and (g) the provision of improved main roads linking Kuwait with the adjoining towns and villages. The Plan calledfor the demolition of the old houses inside the old wall to give way for new roads and public buildings. Modernresidential neighbourhoods were built outside the old wall. Only a few historic monuments have been preserved, fewmosques have been saved from demolition, and many traditional houses have been replaced with modern structures. Figure 6. The 1st Master Plan. Before the discovery of oil, Kuwait was a vernacular settlement located on the southern shore of the Kuwaitcreek north of the Gulf composed of courtyard houses built using mud brick along narrow alleys. The courtyard wasan important feature that provided shelter from harsh climate as well as safety and privacy for the family. [10] The Page: 4 Date-8/23/2011
  • 5. city was surrounded from the south by a semi-circular defensive wall with several gates. The wall was the third in aseries of concentric walls that were built during different periods of history to defend the city from tribal attacks. Thefirst wall was built in 1760 with an approximate length of 750 metres when the town area was about 11.275 hectares.The second wall was built in 1811 and was approximately 2300 metres long and the town area was about 72.4hectares. Finally, the third wall was built in 1921 and was approximately 6400 metres and had five gates. The townarea was then about 750 hectares. Figure 7. Pictures of old Kuwait before the discovery of oil. After the discovery of oil during the 1940s, Kuwait entered an unprecedented phase of development andconstruction. Kuwait utilized its oil wealth to construct a modern city to replace its old traditional settlement. Theeconomic prosperity permitted the introduction of modernization through master planning. The short history of themodern state of Kuwait is an example of the early impact of globalization that was followed on other Gulf countriesduring the second half of the 20th century. [11] While some countries were positively influenced by shifts in worldeconomies and dependency on oil; i.e. Dubai and enjoyed rapid development and world attentions, others; i.e.Kuwait, were negatively influenced by global conflicts and economic dependency. Kuwait will remain at the centreof global conflicts with remaining tensions between Iran and the West that is likely to escalate as Iran insistence ondeveloping its nuclear capabilities and fears that it threatens the whole region. Its unclear whether this condition willresult a more balanced condition or another global conflict that will ignite another regional conflict. Part 2: Contemporary Environment in Kuwait Urban development in Kuwait is confined to a narrow strip of land along the Gulf coast covering no more than8% of its small 17,820 sq km territory. The mighty Burgan oil filed and Kuwait international airport are obstructingpossibilities for development west into the desert, and security conditions prevented development in the northernregion. The Arabian Gulf Road is the major attraction for all residents of Kuwait. Its landscaped areas, restaurants,marinas, landmarks, and shopping malls attract citizens and residents away from the monotonous residential areas. Itextended south to oil port of Shuaiba and north to the commercial port of Shuwaikh, where it ends with the OilSectors Complex designed by the late renowned architect Arthur Erickson. At “Ras Elard” in Slamiya, the state ofthe art Scientific Centre design by C7A, hosting one of the best aquariums in the world, is located. It providesanother example of incorporating modern functions with local expression. The building hosts sophisticatedtechnologies within spaces and forms derived from Arab and Islamic architecture; solid walls from the outside withthe broken axis and the tent covering the entrance. Along the Gulf road many fast food and stand alone restaurantsprovide a “collage” of architecture styles and characters. They include: Hard Rock Café, Le Noter, Ayam Zaman,KFC, Burj Al Hamam, Fridays, McDonalds, Chillies, and others. The names and images of these restaurants areproviding a good façade of globalization for Kuwait. The Arabian Gulf Road suffers traffic congestions andcrowdedness, especially during the weekends and rush hours. Further south, beyond Shuaiba oil port, informalconstruction of private chalets covered the coast all the way to the borders of Saudi Arabia. Page: 5 Date-8/23/2011
  • 6. Figure 8. Water front development. Figure 9. Oil Sectors Complex west of Gulf RoadPage: 6 Date-8/23/2011
  • 7. Figure 10. Scientific Centre east of Gulf Road Figure 11. Waterfront restaurants. The latest national census conducted in 2005 indicated that the population of Kuwait was 2,866,888, including1,893,602 (66%) non-Kuwaiti. 98% of the population reside in urban areas that occupies only 8% of the total area ofthe country. The workforce is estimated to be 2,213,403 individual, 14% Kuwaiti and 86% non-Kuwaiti. [12] Thenon-Kuwaiti workforce, estimated to be 1,332,629 individuals, is composed of 36% Arabs, 63% Asian and 1% fromother countries. The high income promotes life style only paralleled in other Gulf countries. Kuwaitis enjoy highincome from governmental jobs and government subsidies for food, housing, medical care, education, etc. Non-Kuwaiti workforce enjoy high income compared to what they can earn in their own countries. Their interest is tosupport their families back home, improve their living conditions and secure their future when they return to their Page: 7 Date-8/23/2011
  • 8. countries. Due to the bylaws, they are not allowed to purchase assets in Kuwait, so they divert all their income totheir home countries and accept basic or average living conditions in Kuwait. They are actually living continuouslyin two worlds at the same time, accepting harsh present conditions in a promise to live better living conditions whenthey go back to their countries. Many of them end up living all their life in Kuwait and never return home! Shopping malls constitute an important part of the contemporary urban experience in Kuwait. The harsh extremehot weather, reaching more than 50 degrees centigrade, frequent dust storms and humidity during the long summermonths force individuals to retreat to large enclosed shopping malls for socialization more than for actual shopping.The traditional shopping/socialization experience in the downtown Mubarkiya area, composed of connected shadedmarketplaces, was replaced by a modern shopping/socialization experience inside enclosed air conditioned state ofthe art shopping malls. The old Mubarkiya area remained a shopping destination providing a traditional shoppingexperience along with Souq Al Zul Wa Al Bshut, designed by the Kuwaiti architectural firm Bonyan as a traditionalsouq composed of shops selling traditional clothes and Persian rugs, and the renovated Souq Al Tujaar. The shoppingexperience in Mubarkiya area relates the shopping experience to the history of old Kuwait across from Safat square,which was the heart of old Kuwait city. Figure 12. Mubarkiya and Souq Alzul. The first modern shopping experience was introduced through the arcaded walkways along new downtownstreets such as Fahd Al Salem street. Buildings were composed of four or five floors with shops in the ground flooralong an arcade covering pedestrian walkways. Office and residential accommodations were provided in the upperfloors. This type was also introduced in Salmiya area along west of Salim Al Mubarak Street. It was followed by theintroduction of large multi-floors complexes that contained shopping malls in the basement, ground and mezzaninefloors, with offices and residential units in the upper floors. The first exclusive shopping mall was constructed inSalmiya area along east of Salim Al Mubarak Street. They attract citizens and expatriates to an exclusive shoppingexperience close to their place of residence. The malls are constructed side by side along the street providing an openstreet and closed mall experiences at the same time. The success of these shopping centres promoted the constructionof more exclusive shopping malls along the same street that contained coffee shops, restaurants and cinemas. Page: 8 Date-8/23/2011
  • 9. Figure 13. Fahad Al Salem street arcades. Figure 14. Salem Al Mubarak street shopping centres. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed the opening of mega shopping malls that incorporated in additionto shopping, restaurants, and cinemas, large departmental stores and fast food outlets, marinas, hotels and hypermarkets. Souq Sharq was the first shopping mall to create major attraction along the Gulf. Designed by the renownedarchitect Nader Ardalan of the KEO. The Mall applies strategies of post modern architecture by utilizing traditionalelements from Kuwaiti architecture in a modern language. The longitudinal interconnected 2-floors pathways hostshops and restaurants. It transformed the traditional wind captures (badjirs) into mechanical rooms for air-conditioning units. The design is criticized for locating the main view of the mall towards the city and the marinawhile locating the parking lots towards the Gulf. The badjirs were also criticized as “unauthentic” to Kuwaititraditional architecture. Page: 9 Date-8/23/2011
  • 10. Figure 15. Souq Sharq development. Located on the waterfront in the exclusive shopping district of Salmiya, Marina World is a major shopping andentertainment development that crosses the Arabian Gulf Road. It is composed of a shopping mall, restaurants’complex, hotel and marina for yachts. It is the second largest shopping and entertainment complex to open inKuwait. It opened its first phase in 2002, the second phase in 2004, and the third and final phase towards the end of2005. Marina World contains many restaurants, shops, a convention hall, promenade areas, and a five-star hotel. It isthe hot spot for teenagers and youth in Kuwait. Marina Mall is designed in a neo-classical Spanish design style. Themalls exterior façade is characterized by its distinct red, blue, and beige paint, and red roof tiles. The circular CentralPlaza is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. The Plazas centrepiece is a large, spectacular glass fountain, and thearea is topped with a large glass dome, equipped with a sail that moves automatically in the direction of the sun. TheMarina Crescent, located directly across the highway from Marina Mall, is composed entirely of restaurants and giftshops. It is directly linked to the Mall by a panoramic, 100-meter long, air-conditioned bridge. The Waterfront ofMarina World features the five-star deluxe Marina Hotel, a large marina, three-kilometre long walking paths,basketball courts, a skate park, the Salwa Sabah Al-Ahmad Theatre & Hall, and Hard Rock Cafe. Marina Waves isthe latest features of Marina World. It includes services like spa, saloon, gym and as well as some coffee shops. Figure 16. Marina Mall The Avenues is the largest shopping mall in Kuwait. It became the shopping heaven for all residents of Kuwaitsince the opening of its first phase in April 2007. It is located in the Al-Rai industrial area, along the Fifth Ring Page: 10 Date-8/23/2011
  • 11. Road. The project contains four phases: phase 1 contains over 150 lifestyle shops, restaurants, cineplex, Carrefourhypermarket and an IKEA showroom, phase 2 is an extension of phase 1 opened in 2008 adding 100 higher-endshops, a large food court, a large entertainment complex, an outdoor fountain and outdoor dining venues, phase 3/4are a much larger expansion of the mall which will add to it a traditional Arabian souk, a European-themed GrandMall, a luxury mall housing top-end brands, a shaded garden with water features (dubbed The Oasis), two hotels,showrooms and a conference hall. The mall is expected to have over 900,000 square meters of usable space uponcompletion in 2011. In the Fahaheel area, south of Kuwait city, Al Kut shopping mall, designed by the renownedJordanian architect Rasem Badran, represents a trend to utilize traditional architecture vocabulary in contemporarybuildings. The mall is composed of two wings surrounding an artificial lake overlooking the Gulf. One wing hostsfashion stores, cinemas and a food court while the other hosts a traditional vegetables and fish market. Terracesaround the central lake provide an excellent relaxing place. Figure 17. The Avenues shopping mall. Figure 18. Al Kut shopping mall. The latest shopping mall to open in Kuwait is 360 Mall. It opened its doors to customers for the first time in July5, 2009. It provides a new shopping experience accompanied by cultural events. The shape of the mall, as the nameimplies, is a full circle containing shops, galleries, departmental stores, cinemas, a hypermarket, restaurants andcafés. It is connected to a multi-storey car park that provides ambient parking spaces for customers. The mall isdivided into two paths; one representing day experience and the other representing night experience. The two paths Page: 11 Date-8/23/2011
  • 12. meet at a three story grand courtyard. The circular exterior wall of the mall is covered with stone cladding and glass.An interior vertical garden is located along the south façade providing a unique experience for dining and sitting.Due to financial conditions many shops are not leased yet but the mall owners decided to open the mall on time. Themall contains fitness, sports, entertainment, cultural and shopping amenities that are available for the first time in ashopping mall in Kuwait. Figure 19. The 360 Mall. According to the 1st master Plan of Kuwait, residential neighbourhoods were constructed outside the traditionalcity wall. Typical neighbourhoods were designed to reflect the ideal image of modern life style of the middle 20thcentury. They were composed of wide streets for automobiles leading to individual plots of lands. At the centre ofthe neighbourhood, a shopping centre, clinic, police station and high schools were located. Within the houses blocks,mosques, public gardens, nursery and elementary schools were located. The plots of land were used to constructvillas according to western style. Building codes and regulations were developed to guide the construction activitiesof the houses. Setbacks, floor area ratio and number of floors were all devised to produce western style villas. Forthose who cannot afford to construct their own villas the government took the responsibility to construct publichousing units for them. Several schemes were employed from plot and loan to completed villas to multi-storeyhousing apartments. Provision of housing, health insurance, free education, secured governmental jobs and otherbenefits became the means to distribute the oil wealth to the citizens. As the society developed, housing became amean to show off wealth and social status. Building codes and regulations became a tool to provide more area and height to construct larger houses. Severalchanges aiming at increasing the size of building volume and floor area ratio were introduced negatively affected thequality of life inside residential neighbourhoods. The increasing use of lot area resulted in an inadequate space toaccommodate cars inside the lot and the inability to provide indoor parking garages. This situation forced the parkingof cars on the sidewalks occupying the space assigned for pedestrians. Due to the harsh summer weather and theneed to provide car sheds, many owners cover the side walks with different types and styles of car sheds according totheir standards and economic ability. They are made of steel corrugated sheets or fabric canopies and take any shapeor color according to the wishes and economic ability of the owners. The resulting environment in neighbourhoods isvery hostile to pedestrians. It is not possible for pedestrians to use the sidewalks, they have to use the street forwalking exposing themselves to the dangers of automobiles and service vehicles. The reduction of setbacks to a mere1.5m produces building volumes that are no more than 3 meters apart. This distance is not appropriate to maintainacceptable levels of privacy. Windows facing each other allowed visual intrusion into neighboring houses. Theabsence of any guidelines addressing style and character of buildings resulted in a mixture of styles adjacent to eachother. Building regulations did not provide any guidelines to enforce the provision of green areas nor vegetationwithin or around buildings. Leftover spaces are very small neither to be developed as landscape areas nor to be usedin any useful function. They are either taken by closest houses as private gardens and parking areas or used asstorage area for boats, cars and other house items. The community feeling, characteristic of the traditionalneighborhood, was not maintained due to the lack of social contact opportunities or spaces. The occupation of Page: 12 Date-8/23/2011
  • 13. sidewalks by cars reduced the chances of neighbors meeting or kids playing in the streets that are not safe for them.The new neighborhood environment encourages isolation and separation of families and neighbors. Neighbourhoodsare getting more crowded with members of the new generations, more automobiles and expatriates residing in theonce exclusive citizens’ neighbourhoods. [13] Figure 20. Citizen’s residential neighbourhoods. Part 3: Challenges and Opportunities Crowdedness, traffic congestions, insufficient car parking, informal construction of buildings, annexation ofvacant lands, energy shortages are some of the challenges facing the future of Kuwait’s development. Since 2004,studies forecasted shortage in electric and water supply as well as traffic congestions to occur in the year 2006.“Tarsheed”, or conserve, is a campaign to conserve energy during summer month’s peak hours because demandreaches dangerous levels against the insufficient supply of electric power. Future developments will require at leasttwice the currently produced energy and no clear plans on how this energy will be produced are in place! Slowdecision making process due to bureaucratic and managerial problems is slowing the implementation of projects anddevelopment plans. As indicated by research studies, the most important managerial problems are: primacy ofpersonal relationships over work relationships, favoritism and personal loyalty at work, subjectivity in evaluation andpromotion, unwillingness to shoulder responsibilities, multiplicity of rules and regulations, rigid and obsoleteadministrative systems and policies, and influence of cliques in the workplace. [14] Recent changes to Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) bylaws discouraged investors from participating in the construction of new projects inKuwait. Several projects were cancelled and others were put on hold. One of the major challenges facing Kuwait’s development is its population composition. Intense dependency onforeign workers increased the number of expatriates living in Kuwait tremendously. Among the approximately three-million inhabitants population of Kuwait, 35% are Kuwaitis, 22% Arabs, 39% Non-Arabs and 4% stateless Arabs;called Bedoun. House servants, porters and drivers compose the majority of foreign workers come from South-EastAsian countries; Indonesia, Philippine and Indian continent. It is estimated that 700,000 foreign workers areemployed as house servants. Non-Kuwait population is composed of workers from South East Asian and Arabmanual workers in addition to professionals from Arab, European, North American, and other countries.Construction workers and shop vendors are mainly from Arab countries and Iran. This dependency on foreignworkers to perform manual work and lower jobs will impact the future growth of Kuwait. For each Kuwaiti citizen 2foreign workers are needed; approximately 1 for domestic service and 1 for other activities. The KMP3R1 predictsthat the population of Kuwait will reach 5.4 million by the year 2030. This includes approximately 3 million expatsserving the remaining 1.5 million Kuwaitis! The expatriates living conditions is another challenge facing Kuwait. While Kuwaitis depends mainly on foreignworkers to perform all manual work, they were never provided with adequate living conditions or housing. Until themiddle of the current decade, thousands of low-income, expatriate manual workers, including some 60,000 EgyptianSaiidis – the villagers of Upper Egypt – resided in the southern neighbourhood of Khetan. The inhabitants lived incrowded living conditions in converted old courtyard houses that hosted 20 to 25 workers in each house. The roomrent varied between 15 to 45 KD per person depending on the size, location and number of tenants in the room. Mostrooms were shared by more than five persons making the rent from each house very profitable for the owner. Theliving conditions of this marginalized group have deteriorated rapidly, especially since the Second Gulf War. The Page: 13 Date-8/23/2011
  • 14. same condition was found in Benaid Al Qar and Murqab areas. The government developed plans to clear the areaand move the inhabitants to a new location, but implementation of this plan is very slow. Another areaaccommodating middle class expatriates is called Farwania. With the start of the demolition of deteriorated houses ofKhetan, many of its residents moved to Faraniya creating more crowded and congested conditions. Higher classexpatriates select Salmaiya and the Gulf Road as their favourite place for residence or they reside among Kuwaitis intheir residential neighbourhoods. The government has plans to construct housing for foreign workers in the areas ofShedadiyah and Salibiyah. The shanty towns of Sulaybia, North of Kuwait city, is occupied by stateless individuals,called Al-Bedoon, is a major problem that requires major attention. They are considered illegal residents that fledfrom neighbouring countries, hiding their original nationalities in order to benefit from services and benefitsprovided to Kuwaiti citizens. While there are attempts to recognize those who fought for Kuwait during the invasionor served the country by granting them citizenship and services, the problem of their living conditions in shantytowns is receiving little attention from the government. This constitutes a source of internal insecurity as it did inother countries. Figure 21. Expatriate residential neighbourhoods. The growing number of tall buildings under construction in downtown Kuwait city is alarming. Their impact onthe human, natural and built environment is not carefully assessed. The sustainability of tall buildings and mega-projects should be guaranteed in order to avoid creating degraded and congested urban environments. Absence ofexplicit laws or regulations regarding the implementation of sustainability in Kuwait’s building codes limits theapplication of sustainability strategy to the personal interests of the owner or developer. [15] Also, buildings cannever be completely sustainable and green if they were not placed in a sustainable context. On the other hand,traditional architecture examples are vanishing quickly from Kuwait. The handful old buildings along the Gulf roadare disappearing amidst the new Traditional Village Development. Other deteriorating traditional buildings arevanishing quickly and are in desperate need for renovation and preservation. Figure 22. Expression of Kuwaiti Identity in Architecture. Page: 14 Date-8/23/2011
  • 15. Figure 23. New downtown towers. Part 5: Conclusions Forces of globalization were most evident in the case of Kuwait during the Second Gulf War when the countrycontinued to exist economically and politically as a virtual country outside its physical borders and was brought backto existence due to a global intervention by the world community. This dramatic experience of invasion andoccupation for a brief period of time awakened the Kuwaitis sense of belonging and identity. This was reflected onthe architecture being produced in Kuwait by local and Kuwaiti architects in their attempts to recognize andacknowledge the heritage of traditional Kuwaiti architecture during the 1990s. While state-of-the-art glass-boxoffice buildings and classic style villa represent influence of globalization, other examples illustrate attempts toincorporate globalization and localization forces in their design and construction. The efforts range from copying andpasting elements and forms from indigenous architecture to sophisticated design that incorporate state-of-the-arttechnologies with local expressions. A documentary titled “Kuwaiti Architecture: A Lost Identity” depicts thedevelopment of architecture in Kuwait and points to the importance of developing a Kuwaiti identity in architecturefrom the point of view of a dozen Kuwaiti architects. Why did the need to express a local identity by blendingmodernity and tradition arise? Is it a real “need” or a “selling” strategy of new real-estate? During the fifties, whenKuwait was transforming from a vernacular settlement into a modern planned city, there was no requirement to blendtradition and modernity in the planning of the new city. [17] The ambition was to join the modern world and breakall linkages with the past; including the traditional environment that was associated with poverty and primitive livingconditions. Today, the identity expressed through the use of traditional style is viewed as a defence mechanismagainst the domination of the sweeping identity of globalization. Kuwait is experiencing, as in other developing countries, the tension between the forces of globalization andlocalization. On one hand, people are eager to enjoy the luxuries of modern life that they can afford to have while atthe same time retaining a cultural identity and satisfying special social requirements. The clash of styles that exists inthe built environment in Kuwait is a product of the rapid process of globalization that swept the country since themiddle of the 20th century. A dichotomy between cultural forces of globalization and localization is shaping todaysbuilt environment, i.e. modern-traditional, Islamic-Western, local-global. [18] While some architects employfashionable styles of architecture in order to integrate the local architecture into global trends, others are trying torevive the traditional architectural style as a mean to enforce the local identity and heritage. [19] [20] [21] [22] Theresulting built-environment lacks shared identity and sense of place. Buildings alone are not sufficient to convey thecultural identity, the context of architecture provided an important background against which architecture wasunderstood. The traditional city spaces provided an important dimension to the experience and provided ameaningful reading of traditional architecture buildings. Identity was always pluralistic, fluid and unstable and that itis continuously constructed and reproduced by the collective imagination of the community. Buildings constructed during different periods of the development of Kuwait illustrate the state and priorities ofcultural identities at that time. For example, during the Sixties and Seventies the interest of the country was to jointhe modernized world utilizing the financial capabilities allowed for by the revenues of oil sales. Buildingsconstructed during that period were designed according to modern and international style approaches. During theEighties the economic crisis of the stock market reduced the financial capabilities of the country and the individualsand produced buildings with basic structural and technological necessities. The security crisis of the Nineties, due tothe invasion and liberation experience that Kuwait has passed through, promoted the renewed interest in expressing a Page: 15 Date-8/23/2011
  • 16. “genuine” cultural identity. The source of this genuine cultural identity was thought to be found in traditionalbuildings and lifestyle. Meanwhile, globalization is facilitating contact with other culture and lifestyles, through easeof travel and communication, is adding to the paradox of defining a “proper” cultural identity. While cultures change rapidly their architectural products remain unchanged expressing moments of culturalchange and development. Cultural identity is a meaning making process that consolidates past traditions withcontemporary conditions and desires. Multiple identities may coexist at the same time representing different groupsin the society. [23] They may also shift from one state to another adjusting to external pressures and circumstances.Kuwait is an example of hyper-identity expressions in architecture that can be found in other Gulf countries and theworld. When searching for cultural identity, one should expect be find several overlapping identities. References: [1] Gardiner, S., ”Kuwait: The Making of a City,” Longman, London, United Kingdom. [2] CIAWFB. Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Books Web site, 2009.https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ku.html [retrieved 5 August 2009]. [3] Vale, L., “Architecture, Power, and National Identity,” Yale University Press, New Haven and London,United Kingdom, 1992, pp. 209-235. [4] Al-Bahar, H., ”Kuwait’s Post-War Reconstruction,” MIMAR: Architecture in Development. London:Concept Media Ltd., No. 40, 1991, pp. 14-17. [5] Mahgoub, Y., “The Impact of War on the Meaning of Architecture in Kuwait,” The International Journal ofArchitectural Research, published online by Archnet-IJAR, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2008, pp. 232-246. [6] Kultermann, U., “Contemporary Architecture in the Arab States: Renaissance of a Region,” McGraw-Hill,New York, USA, 1999. [7] Bjorn , M., “Kuwait Tower,” MIMAR: Architecture in Development. Singapore: Concept Media Ltd. No. 2, 1981, pp. 40-41. [8] Shiber, S., “The Kuwait Urbanization,” Kuwait Government Printing Press, Kuwait, 1964. [9] Minoprio & Spencely and Macfarlane, “Plan for the Town of Kuwait: Report to His Highness ShaikhAbdulla Assalim Assubah, C.I.E. The Amir of Kuwait,” 1951. [10] Al-Bahar, H., “Traditional Kuwaiti Houses’” MIMAR 13: Architecture in Development. Singapore:Concept Media Ltd., No. 13, 1984, pp. 71-78. [11] Mahgoub, Y., “Kuwait – Learning From a Globalized City,” The Evolving Arab City, edited by Dr. YasserElsheshtawy. Routledge, 2008, pp. 152-183. [12] Kuwait Ministry of Planning – Central Statistics Office, 2005, http://mopweb4.mop.gov.kw [retrieved 3August 2009]. [13] Mahgoub, Y., “The Development of Private Housing in Kuwait: The Impact of Building Regulations,”Open House International, Vol. 27 No. 2, 2002, pp. 47-62. [14] Al-Kazemi, A. and Ali A., “Managerial problems in Kuwait,“ The Journal of Management Development,Vol. 21, No. 5, 2002 , pp. 366-375. [15] Mahgoub, Y. and Al Omaim, A., “Tall Identity ... Lost Sustainability,” Viewpoints Special Edition:Architecture and Urbanism in the Middle East, Middle East Institute, Washington, DC, 2008. pp 37-40. [17] Mahgoub, Y., “Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait,” The Journal ofArchitecture, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2007,pp. 165-182. [18] Castells, M., “The Relationship between Globalization and Cultural Identity in the early 21st Century,”Forum Barcelona, Spain, 2004. [19] Al-Mutawa, S., “History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City,” Al-Khat, Kuwait, 1994. [20] Goodwin, G., “Saleh Abdulghani Al-Mutawa: New Vision in Kuwait,” Alrabea Publishers, London, UK,1997. [21] Khattab, O., “Globalization Versus Localization: Contemporary Architecture and the Arab City,” CTBUHReview, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2001, pp. 56-68. [22] Mahgoub, Y., “Cultural Sustainability and Identity: The Case of Kuwait,” The International Journal ofEnvironmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2007, pp.137-144. [23] Mahgoub, Y., “Hyper-Identity: The Case of Kuwaiti Architecture,” The International Journal ofArchitectural Research, Vol. 1 No. 1, 2007, pp. 70-84. Page: 16 Date-8/23/2011