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Socio-Cultural Sustainability of Housing Environments in Kuwait

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Under the umbrella of XXIInd UIA World Congress of Architecture …

Under the umbrella of XXIInd UIA World Congress of Architecture
UIA 2005 ISTANBUL
July 2005, Istanbul – TURKEY
IAPS-CSBE ‘CULTURE AND SPACE IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT NETWORK’
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SPATIAL TRANSFORMATION IN HOUSING ENVIRONMENTS
This paper studies the impact of the rapid urbanization process on the housing environment in Kuwait in terms of it sustainability. It argues that this rapid planned change and urbanization did not permit the city to develop in a sustainable manner.

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  • 1. Under the umbrella of XXIInd UIA World Congress of Architecture U I A 2 0 0 5 I S T A N B U L THEMATIC SECTION 3: ARCHITECTURE OF CITIES Housing in Cities Socio-Cultural Sustainability of Housing Environments in Kuwait Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Department of Architecture, College of Engineering & Petroleum Kuwait University July 2005, Istanbul – TURKEY IAPS-CSBE ‘CULTURE AND SPACE IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT NETWORK’ SOCIAL CHANGE AND SPATIAL TRANSFORMATION IN HOUSING ENVIRONMENTS
  • 2. Introduction
    • Cities of the Gulf countries have witnessed rapid urbanization during the second half of the 20th century.
    • After the discovery of oil, they were transformed from traditional settlements to modern planned cites in a very short period of time.
  • 3. Introduction
    • The city-state of Kuwait is one the Gulf countries that went through this rapid change and transformation.
    • This paper studies the impact of the rapid urbanization process on the housing environment in Kuwait in terms of it sustainability.
    • It argues that this rapid planned change and urbanization did not permit the city to develop in a sustainable manner.
  • 4. Method
    • The paper analyzes the impact of rapid urbanization process that occurred during the second half of the 20th century on the quality of housing environment in Kuwait.
    • It suggests avenues for achieving a sustainable environment in Kuwait and attempts to extract lessons useful to other contexts.
  • 5. Method
    • It adopts a framework proposed by Wheeler that suggests the utilization of main characteristics of urban sustainability to analyze the quality of life in the urban housing environment. (Wheeler, 1998, p. 439)
    • These characteristics include:
      • Compact, efficient land use
      • Less automobile use , better access
      • Efficient resource use , less pollution and waste
      • Restoration of natural systems
      • Good housing and living environments
      • A healthy social ecology
      • A sustainable economics
      • Community participation and involvement
      • Preservation of local culture and wisdom
  • 6. Method
    • The paper utilizes the method of comparative analysis between the past and the present urban housing environment in Kuwait to highlight the impact of sudden economic, social and cultural change produced by its rapid, planned urbanization during the second half of the 20th century on the quality of urban life .
  • 7.
    • The term "sustainability" was first offered in 1987 by the United Nation's World Commission on Environment and Development in its report Our Common Future , known as the Brundtland Report .
    • According to that document,
    • " Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs .”
    Theoretical Background: Definitions of Sustainability
  • 8.
    • In the Istanbul Declaration , the Heads of State or Government and the official delegations of countries assembled at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey from 3 to 14 June 1996 , endorsed the universal goals of ensuring adequate shelter for all and making human settlements safer, healthier and more liveable, equitable, “sustainable” and productive.
    Theoretical Background: Definitions of Sustainability
  • 9.
    • The concept of sustainable development has been initially debated and interpreted in terms of the limits of the earth to accommodate human activities , thus, ‘ ecological sustainability ’ was the early concern.
    • As the concept develops, ‘ economic sustainability ’, ‘ social sustainability ’, and ‘ cultural sustainability ’ have gradually been incorporated as key dimensions of sustainable development.
    Theoretical Background: Definitions of Sustainability
  • 10. Theoretical Background: Definitions of Sustainability
    • Further, the linkages between these different dimensions of sustainability should be fully taken into account, and that they should not be isolated from one another.
    • (Khan, 1995; Williams, et al, 2000)
    • The real power of the concept of sustainability lies in its integration of economic, social, and ecological systems , previously studied and dealt with separately
    • (Center for Sustainable Communities, Tutorials, 1995.)
  • 11. Theoretical Background: Aspects ad Levels of Sustainability
  • 12. Background: Kuwait before 1950
    • Prior to 1952 Kuwait was a vernacular settlement overlooking the Arabian Gulf and composed of courtyard houses built using mud brick along narrow alleys.
    • The city was surrounded by protective wall with several gates.
  • 13. Old Walls of Kuwait Kuwait Before 1950
  • 14. Port Tents Houses Market Kuwait Before 1950
  • 15. The urban structure The urban tissue Traditional market - souq Alleys and streets Dwellings - Diwans Courtyard Houses Kuwait Before 1950
  • 16. Courtyard house closed from the outside and open to the inside courtyard; called alhoush . Kuwait Traditional Houses Al Badr House
  • 17. Al Ibrahimi House Al Asousi House Kuwait Traditional Houses Al Awadi House Al Dabous House
  • 18. Kuwait After 1950
    • After the discovery of oil, the rulers of the country selected the British firm Monprio, Spencly and Macfarlen to propose a “Plan” for the development of the city.
    The 1 st Kuwait Master Plan 1952
  • 19.
    • They regarded the following matters as being of primary importance in the “ re-planning ” of the town:
      • the provision of a modern road system appropriate to the traffic conditions in Kuwait,
      • the location of suitable zones for public buildings, industry, commerce, schools, and other purposes,
      • the choice of zones for new houses and other buildings needed in residential areas , both inside and outside the town wall,
      • the selection of sites for parks, sports ground, school playing fields and other open spaces ,
      • the creation of a beautiful and dignified town centre ,
      • the planting of trees and shrubs along the principal roads and at other important points in the town, and
      • the provision of improved main roads linking Kuwait with the adjoining towns and villages .
    Kuwait After 1950
  • 20. Demolition of the old walls in 1957
    • The “Plan” led to the demolition of the walled city and its traditional houses to provide land for economic and public facilities and the establishment of western style neighborhoods surrounded by modern highways for cars and vehicles.
    Kuwait After 1950
  • 21. Kuwait Master Plans 1952 1967 1970 1977 Before 1950 1994
  • 22. Kuwait City Planning
  • 23. Typical Neighborhood Planning
  • 24. Contemporary Environment in Kuwait Air-conditioned office towers Fast-food franchise Modern shopping centers Highways spreading out into suburbs Neighborhoods and villas Kuwait downtown business center
  • 25. Modern and traditional house design Modern house design Traditional house design Comparing Traditional and Modern Environments House Design
  • 26. Vernacular and modern neighborhood planning Modern neighborhood Traditional neighborhood Comparing Traditional and Modern Environments Neighborhood Planning
  • 27. Comparison between traditional and modern climatic solutions Comparing Traditional and Modern Environments Climatic Solutions
  • 28. Modern streets Traditional streets Comparing Traditional and Modern Environments Old and New streets
  • 29. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 1. Efficient resource use, less pollution and waste
    • Dependency on non-renewable energy source for the production of electricity and water.
    • Dependency on artificial air-conditioning , ventilation and lighting systems.
    • Inefficient utilization of energy sources through design that does not adhere to appropriate requirements to reduce the heat gain and heat transfer in public buildings.
  • 30. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 2. Less automobile use, better access
    • Urban environment planning encourages the use of cars as primary means of transportation raising the levels of air pollution and increases traffic problems.
    • The rising number of cars, coupled with lack of adequate parking places inside houses, resulted in occupation of sidewalks by sheds for cars , creating socially hostile neighborhoods .
  • 31. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 3. Community participation and involvement
    • Private cars occupying sidewalks under sheds of different types and colors cause visual pollution while pedestrians walking in the middle of the street.
    • This phenomenon is the outcome of changes made in the building bylaws permitting the construction of more area within the lots and reducing the possibility of parking cars inside the houses.
  • 32. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 4. A healthy social ecology
    • The urban environment is segregated. Houses and residential areas are separated from other activities according to zoning regulations.
    • This resulted in typical, monotonous neighborhoods for citizens, while commercial and business activities are located in the downtown and districts occupied by expatriates.
    Downtown Expatriates housing, shopping & entertainment Citizens housing. Industrial Expatriates housing.
  • 33. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 5. Preservation of local culture and wisdom
    • Destruction of the majority traditional architecture buildings during the implementation of the “Plan” in the 1960’s.
    • The deteriorating condition of the handful remaining buildings is raising a concern of their complete absence in the near future.
  • 34. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 5. Preservation of local culture and wisdom
    • Modern “villas” lack shared style and character.
    • Distance between outward looking villas is not appropriate to maintain acceptable levels of privacy required by people of a culture that value privacy highly.
    • Windows and balconies facing each other allowing visual intrusion into neighboring houses. They are seldom utilized due to dependency on air-conditioning and privacy requirements.
  • 35. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 6. Good housing and living environments
    • The community feeling, characteristic of the traditional neighborhood, was not maintained due to lack of spaces to allow social contact opportunities.
    • The occupation of sidewalks by cars reduced the chances of neighbors meeting or kids playing in the streets that are not safe for them.
  • 36. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 6. Good housing and living environments
    • Unlike the traditional environment where neighbors enjoyed social relationships in the narrow alleys, the contemporary neighborhood environment encourages isolation and separation between families and neighbors.
  • 37. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 7. Compact, efficient land use
    • Large, vacant, and undeveloped lots of lands are common inside and outside the downtown area are contributing to the visual discontinuity of the urban landscape.
    • The existence of deserted, deteriorated houses in the downtown and major streets is another aspect of visual pollution.
  • 38. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 8. A sustainable economics
    • The planning did not provide adequate housing for Kuwaitis in the downtown area. Only one, unsuccessful housing project for the Kuwaitis called Al-Sawaber is located within the old city.
    • Living in the suburbs contributed to the absence of Kuwaitis from the downtown area and its unsustainable economic conditions.
  • 39. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 8. A sustainable economics
    • The downtown is only used as a shopping area and not a place for living by the Kuwaitis.
    • There are efforts to bring the Kuwaitis back to the downtown, but without adequate housing that satisfies their new needs, the downtown will continue to be occupied by expatriates only.
  • 40. Analysis of Sustainability of Urban Environment 9. Restoration of natural systems
    • No serious attempts are made to utilize solar energy for the production of electricity in order to reduce the current dependency on the use of oil to help restore the badly damaged natural system.
  • 41. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • Kuwait still has a long way to go to regain a viable urban environment.
    • Urgent measures that should be taken include;
      • the renovation and reconstruction of badly damaged traditional buildings ,
      • the development of mixed use downtown development strategy ,
      • the provision of appropriate housing units to encourage of Kuwaitis to live in the downtown ,
      • the integration of housing and commercial activities , and
      • implementation of revitalization projects for the downtown area .
  • 42. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • The above measures are expected to be faced by obstacles that the policymakers and urban planners in Kuwait should try to overcome. They include:
    • Building bylaws and regulations : Conflicting and continuously changing building bylaws and regulations are major contributors to the deteriorating quality of the urban environment in Kuwait. Modifications of building regulations were mainly concerned with increasing building volume and floor area, through the increase of floor area ratio and the reduction of setbacks, on the expense of quality of the environment and community comfort.
  • 43. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • Neighborhood design : The “outdated” approach to neighborhood design practiced by the Public Authority for Housing Welfare since its foundation in 1954 should be modified to improve the quality and design of future neighborhoods. New neighborhood design guidelines should be implemented to achieve a sustainable neighborhood design.
  • 44. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • The car : The car is a commodity that should be accommodated in the planning and design of urban environments. Parking for private cars should not occupy the sidewalks provided mainly for pedestrians.
  • 45. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • Zoning Regulations : Mixed use planning should be encouraged to improve the livability and excitement of the urban environment. Segregation between functions and peoples proved to be disadvantageous. It only succeeded in creating hostile and unfriendly environment.
  • 46. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • The building industry : Encouraging the building industry to be sustainable in the use of material and construction methods could be achieved through economic incentives. Inadequate knowledge and publications regarding the concept and methods of sustainable development in Arabic is hindering the development of public awareness and participation. Society’s willingness to recognize and solve environmental problems depends more upon the way these claims are presented by a limited number of people than upon the severity of the threats they pose.
  • 47. Conclusion and Recommendations
    • While the problems of the urban environment in Kuwait might be similar to urban problems found in other parts of the world, they require uncommon solutions to avoid the mistake of copying solutions from other parts of the world.
    • The solutions should be stemming from the local context and conditions.
  • 48. Thank you.