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Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait العمارة والتعبير عن الهوية الثقافية في الكويت
Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait العمارة والتعبير عن الهوية الثقافية في الكويت
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Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait العمارة والتعبير عن الهوية الثقافية في الكويت

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The Journal of Architecture, ISSN: 1360-2365
Volume 12, Number 2, pp. 165-182
2007
The phenomenon of expressing cultural identity in architecture is apparent in many parts of the world: this paper examines it in the context of Kuwait. It focuses on architects, and the strategies they use in expressing cultural identity. The aim is to understand their views and current efforts in this context. In Kuwait, architecture has passed through dramatic transformations during the second half of the twentieth century that were the result of economic, regional and global changes. A survey of the views of eighteen Kuwaiti architects was conducted using focused interviews and a standardised questionnaire. Examples of their projects were analysed to illustrate their views and ways of thinking. The study concluded that there were several strategies employed by Kuwaiti architects to express a Kuwaiti cultural identity in their work. A three- dimensional matrix was developed to illustrate the relationship between the ranges of these strategies and architecture in Kuwait. It is hoped that this matrix will be useful for practitioners and critics of contemporary architecture in Kuwait interested in understanding current trends in achieving a cultural identity in architecture.

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Architecture and the Expression of Cultural Identity in Kuwait العمارة والتعبير عن الهوية الثقافية في الكويت

  1. 1. This article was downloaded by:[Kuwait University] On: 6 November 2007 Access Details: [subscription number 779290559] Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK The Journal of Architecture Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713703437 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Yasser Mahgoub a a Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Petroleum, Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait Online Publication Date: 01 April 2007 To cite this Article: Mahgoub, Yasser (2007) 'Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait', The Journal of Architecture, 12:2, 165 - 182 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/13602360701363486 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13602360701363486 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdf This article maybe used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
  2. 2. 165 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Yasser Mahgoub Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Petroleum, Kuwait University, PO Box 9569 Safat, 13060 Kuwait. The phenomenon of expressing cultural identity in architecture is apparent in many parts of the world: this paper examines it in the context of Kuwait. It focuses on architects, and the strategies they use in expressing cultural identity. The aim is to understand their views and current efforts in this context. In Kuwait, architecture has passed through dramatic trans- formations during the second half of the twentieth century that were the result of econ- omic, regional and global changes. A survey of the views of eighteen Kuwaiti architects was conducted using focused interviews and a standardised questionnaire. Examples of their projects were analysed to illustrate their views and ways of thinking. The study con- cluded that there were several strategies employed by Kuwaiti architects to express a Kuwaiti cultural identity in their work. A three- dimensional matrix was developed to illus- trate the relationship between the ranges of these strategies and architecture in Kuwait. It is hoped that this matrix will be useful for practitioners and critics of contemporary architec- ture in Kuwait interested in understanding current trends in achieving a cultural identity in architecture. Introduction This paper investigates how cultural identity is The beginning of the twenty first century is being expressed in contemporary architecture in marked by increasing globalisation and the affir- the context of Kuwait. It focuses on the architects, mation of a singular identity that is in constant and the strategies, mechanisms, tools, and media tension with traditional local identities. This trend they use in expressing cultural identity in their has followed the spread of the international style work. The aim of this paper is to understand the during the second half of the twentieth century views and roles of Kuwaiti architects participating and has intensified as a result of the spread of glo- in current efforts to achieve a localised cultural iden- balisation as a dominating world view from the tity in architecture. Their attempts influence the end of that century. As a reaction to this sweeping making and development of contemporary architec- trend, the phenomenon of expressing local cultural ture in Kuwait. While these efforts are currently identities in architecture is observed in many parts individualistic, they are gaining momentum and of the world. As Castells put it: ‘cultural identity is popularity as they lay claim to answering the press- the process by which social actors build their own ing cultural and social problems generated by the meaning according to cultural attributes.’ (Castells, application of modern architectural principles 2004.) during the second half of the twentieth century. # 2007 The Journal of Architecture 1360–2365 DOI: 10.1080/13602360701363486
  3. 3. 166 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub They are also relevant to other countries, especially that attempts to reflect cultural identity is a different those Gulf, Arab, and developing countries that phenomenon. share experiences with Kuwait. Literature review Background What is identity? Firstly, it is a process, and not a In Kuwait, architecture passed through dramatic ‘found’ object. It may be likened to the trail left transformations during the second half of the twen- by civilization as it moves through history. The tieth century that were the result of economic, trail is the culture, or identity, of that civilization. regional and global changes. Starting with the dis- . . . Secondly, being a process, identity cannot be covery of oil during the 1940s and the economic fabricated. We develop our identity by tackling wealth generated by its sale, the implementation what we perceive to be our real problems. . . . of the first master plan for the country during the Thirdly, identity is not a self-conscious thing. 1950s and 1960s, the economic boom during the (Correa, 1983.) 1970s following the dramatic increase in oil prices This study is based on the observation that in recent in 1973 and the economic depression during the years the issue of cultural identity in contemporary 1980s following the stock market crash, they culmi- architecture has become essential to creating nated, finally, with the first Gulf war and the experi- uniqueness and local identity in a competitive ence of invasion and liberation by foreign countries environment on a global level. Industrialised and during the 1990s. Architecture reflected all these developing countries have started to re-examine layers of rapid political, economic, and cultural their traditions in a search for their own values and changes. principles. Delanty and Jones (2002) observed that The movement towards expressing cultural iden- in Europe ‘architecture has become an important tity in Kuwaiti architecture is not new. It started discourse for new expression of post-national iden- with attempts by foreign architects who participated tity in general and in particular for the emergence in the design of buildings after the implementation of a “spatial” European identity. No longer tied to of the first master plan in Kuwait during the 1960s the state to the same degree as in the period of (Shiber, 1964). Jorn Utzon’s Parliament Building nation-building, architecture has become a signifi- and Reima Pietilae’s new Sief Palace are landmarks cant cultural expression of post-national identities designed by foreign architects expressing a cultural within and beyond nation-state.’ (Delanty and identity (Gardiner, 1983; Vale, 1992; Kultermann, Jones, 2002.) This process has had an impact on 1999) (Fig. 1). These are examples of foreign archi- the production of contemporary architecture and tects commissioned to design projects in Kuwait eventually triggered an intense discussion about because of a lack of Kuwaiti architects, but the how local identity should be created other than by appearance of architecture by Kuwaiti architects copying fragments from the past.
  4. 4. 167 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Figure 1. Attempts by foreign architects to express cultural identity in architecture. (Photographs by the Author.) a. The Parliament Building by Jorn Utzon. b. The Scientific Centre by C7. c. Banks Complex by SOM. d. Kuwait Towers by Marlene Bjoern. The question of whether architecture should lifestyles. The notion of contemporary vernacular express a cultural identity is being investigated by was developed. This can be defined as a conscious many researchers in many parts of the world. commitment to uncover a particular tradition’s Gospondini argues that ‘in the process of economic unique responses to spatial arrangements, place and cultural globalisation, European integration and and climate and thereafter exteriorise these estab- the blur of national identities in Europe, place-iden- lished and symbolic identities into creative forms tity emerges as a central concern of both scholars (Lim, 2004, p.19). Ogura et al. attempted to clarify and other people.’ (Gospodini, 2004, p. 225.) In Sin- the characteristics of the modern Filipino style gapore, architects vigorously adopted transformed which was introduced by leading architects and integrated traditions to reflect contemporary following World War II. They discovered that one realities such as fast-evolving cultures, values and of the most comprehensible expressions of domestic
  5. 5. 168 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub style is the direct quotation of traditional shape. The new images of the physical place and structures to pursuit of architecture as the product of the Filipino enhance their identifiability and recognition in the culture to enrich Filipino culture is an ongoing city. The image represents a cultural significance problem for architects seeking to realise a Filipino which ties it to culture. For him, the forces exerted style while designing for present-day expectations by commercialism seem to dominate image attach- (Ogura et al., 2002, p. 238). ment for contemporary cities (Saleh, 1998). El-Sheshtawy et al. argue that Third World As described by Khattab, ‘particularly in the case cities — especially those which have witnessed of Kuwait, reasserting the local identity has lately rapid growth within the last two decades — are become a matter of great importance especially moving towards a ‘co-existence’ model which after Iraq’s claims in Kuwait and the Second Gulf takes into account the forces of modernisation War.’ (Khattab, 2001.) This was reflected in the and change (globalisation) whilst at the same architecture being produced in Kuwait by local and time responding to the preservation of traditional Kuwaiti architects in their attempts to recognise elements within the society. They concluded that and to acknowledge the heritage of traditional an examination of the viability of this model and Kuwaiti architecture during the 1990s. The famous its suitability for other cities is recommended and Kuwaiti architect Hamed Shuaib reiterated the ques- they argued that in a world dominated by forces tion posed by many conferences and seminars held of globalisation the current discourse on the ‘loss in the Gulf area: ‘When will we, in Kuwait and of identity’ needs to be reconsidered (El-Sheshtawy other Gulf countries, have modern architecture suit- et al., 2000). Kanna concluded that ‘far from able for our community, environment and heritage?’ experiencing change and modernity as an homo- (Shuaib, 1999.) Several practising architects geneous dystopia, the inhabitants of Dubai have expressed the same view in a documentary entitled: developed ways of culturally absorbing these ‘Kuwaiti Architecture: A Lost Identity.’ Their con- changes.’ (Kanna, 2005, p. 60.) cerns find articulation in Paul Ricouer’s questions Saleh presents an analytical study of the major ‘how to become modern and to return to sources; factors inherent to place-identity which have a how to revive an old, dormant civilization and take bearing on the development of visual images to part in universal civilization.’ (Ricoeur, 1965.) Saudi Arabian cities. He points out that climatic, Such questions are posed by practising architects social, topographic and economic aspects were and also investigated by academic researchers in important factors in the formulation of regionalism. the field. Some Arab societies, such as Egypt, He argues that these factors are now weakened by Lebanon and Syria, went through the process of two controversial trends in the planning and modernisation earlier and at a slower pace than design of place known as traditionalism and the Gulf countries which underwent the same modernism. He asserts that professionals use their experience much later and at an extremely rapid skill in the incorporation of historical as well as pace. Commenting on the process of change that
  6. 6. 169 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Egypt went through during the nineteenth century, that characterises the built environment in the Gulf Khaled Asfour states that: countries as a product of two main ideological For the first time in the Arab world, a process of views: the futurist and the traditionalist, ‘while the ‘cutting and pasting’ was introduced as a cultural first group rejects historical heritage, the second mechanism. The process involves ‘cutting’ ideas considers the past as the only valid evidence that from an original cultural field, the European, and should be considered to shape the present. They ‘pasting’ it with its logic into the new field. In both accept the use of technology as a necessity the process, there is the assumption that the that cannot be avoided.’ (Al-Naim, 2005, p. 105.) new field has similar cultural predicaments and He concludes that ‘when a local culture borrows would yield to similar results upon this transfer shapes and ideas to be utilized in the built environ- of ideas. (Asfour, 2004, p. 3.) ment, several processes occur to “resist” the The cities of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Riyadh and so on, “new”.’ He calls this ‘the mechanism of cultural were planned during the middle of the twentieth resistance in the built environment.’(Al-Naim, century by western planners, who applied the city 2005, p. 116.) To live life out of resistance, as planning theories of that time and did not respect Mules argues, ‘is to live life other than what it the socio-cultural characteristics of the community must be.’ (Mules, 2005.) that were evident in traditional settlements. As Asfour (2004) put it, From regionalism to critical regionalism in During the fifties and sixties of image transfer, the the Gulf Region traveling theory was codified as a simplistic This paper argues that architecture in the Gulf version of Modernism, and was practised by countries is approaching a critical regionalism Arab cultures with great excitement, for it gave stage. Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre (1981) them a fresh visual start after their independence and Kenneth Frampton (1985) used the term ‘critical from 19th century colonial powers. But it was the regionalism’ to describe a contemporary architec- late sixties and early seventies that witnessed the ture which could neither be characterised as interna- greatest practice of Modern imaging. It was the tionalism nor as a folkloric or historical concept of time of the gigantic rise of Arab Gulf cultures region and architecture. By the 1990s, this concept that were getting rich because of oil revenues. had become the key theme of an intense debate (Asfour, 2004, p. 6.) on local, modern architecture. In his book ‘Architecture and Culture: Critical Critical regionalism is interested in specific Studies of Arab Architecture’, Al-Naim argues that elements from the region, those that have acted the rapid urbanisation of Arab societies during the as agent of contact and community, the place- second half of the twentieth century has produced defining elements, and incorporates them the phenomenon of ‘Cultural Resistance’ (Al-Naim, “strangely”, rather than familiarly, it makes 2005, p. 96.) Al-Naim explains the cultural hybridity them appear strange, distant, difficult even
  7. 7. 170 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub disturbing. It disrupts the sentimental “embra- latter has not yet reached the “advanced” stages cing” between buildings and their consumers of the West in terms of political stability, communi- and instead makes an attempt at “pricking the cations or technology, all of which permit greater conscience” . . .A critical approach reintroduces universality.’ (Khan, 1987.) “meaning” in addition to “feeling” in people’s On the other hand, the concept of critical region- view of the world. (Lefaivre et al., 2001, p. 9.) alism has been challenged by many critics, particu- Lefaivre et al. (2001) noted that Vitruvius was the larly those who question its relevance for more first to point ‘to the differences in buildings around advanced economies. The concept of regionality the world’ and referred to this phenomenon as depends on it being possible to correlate cultural ‘regional architecture’, concluding ‘that the codes with geographical regions. ‘In modern arrangement of buildings should be guided by societies these regional differences are largely locality and climate.’ (Lefaivre et al., 2001, p. 3.) obliterated, or as I would add, hybridised. ’(Lim, They traced the development of the forms of region- 2004.) It overlooks fundamental differences and alism in architecture from picturesque, romantic and neglects important factors underlying the postcolo- over-familiarising regionalism into Lewis Mumford’s nial development of architecture in these countries critical regionalism (Lefaivre et al., 2001, pp. 3– 6). and superimposes a rather static and narrow Kenneth Frampton’s concept of regionalism notion of local versus universal, traditional versus mainly focuses on the relationship of a building to modern concepts. As an analytical approach it its site and location in a sociological context. He seems inadequate to capture the products of ‘local states that ‘the fundamental strategy of Critical architecture’ and their perception by theorists and Regionalism is to mediate the impact of universal the general public (Tzonis et al., 2003). Specifically, civilisation with elements derived indirectly from it does not reflect the diverse and dynamic nature the peculiarities of a particular place.’ (Frampton, of the emergence of local identities. In many devel- 1985, p. 20.) oping countries identities can hardly be localised and Regionalism received much attention as it seemed many places show composite patterns with more particularly relevant to developing countries faced than one identity. In addition, the works of architects with the onslaught of Western media, commodifi- labeled as contributions to promoting ‘local identity’ cation and globalisation. Chris Abel suggested that seem to have more in common with developments ‘it is in the countries of the Third World, where the in other countries than with the characteristics of effects of Modernism’s break with the past have the place where they have been erected. been compounded by a drastically speeded-up rate of development, that regionalism has a special Method of inquiry meaning.’ (Abel, 1986.) Khan argued that This study focuses on the views of architects contri- ‘perhaps regionalism, in cultural and technological buting to the production of cultural identity in archi- terms, is stronger in the Third World because the tecture in Kuwait and analyses examples of their
  8. 8. 171 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 projects. For the purpose of this study, a sample of on architecture. 32% of the respondents agreed eighteen architects was selected from a group of that there was a clear architectural identity Kuwaiti architects expressing cultural identity in before 1950, while 5% of the respondents their projects. The methods used for data collection believed that there is identity in Kuwaiti architec- included: a survey using a standardised question- ture after 2000. naire; focused interviews; and the analysis of . The factors that affect the generation of identity examples of contemporary Kuwaiti architecture in architecture were perceived as: climatic that represent the expression of cultural identity. conditions 94%, culture of the society 88%, The questionnaire contained several sections building codes and regulations 87%, client covering different enquiries including: the views of 81%, and building technology 47%. 100% of architects producing this architecture in order to the respondents believed that traditional Kuwaiti understand how they perceive what they are architecture should be the source, desert architec- doing, what are their references, and how they ture 94%, Arab architecture 92%, Gulf architec- are influenced by the client, the context and the ture 88%, Islamic architecture 87% and, lastly, history of the country. An interview guide was International architecture 71%. 100% of the used to shape the in-depth interviews with selected respondents agreed that climate, region and architects. culture should be the sources of identity, while 75% agreed that religion is a source of architec- Findings ture identity. The questionnaire responses were statistically . As for the elements of Kuwaiti architecture, 94% analysed and the in-depth interviews were themati- of the respondents believed that al-housh (the cally analysed to reveal the commonalities and courtyard) and traditional colours should be differences in the views of the Kuwaiti architects. used to reflect Kuwaiti identity in architecture, The questionnaire analysis produced the following 88% believed that the dareehz (the entrance), results (Fig. 2). the diwaniyah (the men’s receiving room), and the liwan (the colonnade) should be used to . Regarding Kuwaiti architectural identity, 88% of reflect Kuwaiti identity, and only 50% of the the respondents agreed that there is currently respondents believed that columns should be no identity in Kuwaiti architecture, while 12% used to reflect identity. 81% of the respondents agreed that there is an identity expressed in con- believed that more than one traditional element temporary Kuwaiti architecture. 94% believed should be used at the same time to reflect a that there should be an identity in Kuwaiti archi- cultural identity in architecture (Fig. 3). tecture and 6% disagreed. 94% of the respon- . 69% of the respondents believed that Kuwaiti dents believed that there is a need to develop architects are contributing positively to identity building regulations to impose Kuwaiti identity in Kuwaiti architecture, while 73% believed that
  9. 9. 172 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub Figure 2. Question- naire responses analysis. (# the Author.) Kuwait Municipality was contributing negatively. that the new Seif Palace, Souq Al-Mubarkiah and 94% believed that local consulting offices and Souq Al-Zul Wa Al-Bishut reflect Kuwaiti identity. the awareness of society will contribute positively Only 13% believed that the Liberation Tower in the future to Kuwaiti identity. 100% of the reflected Kuwaiti cultural identity, and only 40% respondents believed that public buildings believed that Kuwait Towers — the national should reflect Kuwaiti identity, while 94% symbol of Kuwait — reflects Kuwaiti identity. believed that governmental buildings and private . The respondents selected the most important villas should reflect cultural identity. 94% believed examples representing Kuwaiti architecture from
  10. 10. 173 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Figure 3. Elements of traditional Kuwaiti architecture. (Photographs by the Author.) a. Entrance (dahreez). b. Courtyard (housh). c. Men’s reception (diwaniya). d. Sitting bench (mastaba). e. Colonnade (liwan). f. Wooden roof (chandal). traditional and contemporary. Traditional The interviews were useful for gaining in-depth examples included: the old Seif Palace, old houses, understanding of the views of Kuwaiti architects. diwaniyas, schools, mosques, neighbourhoods, While there were many common themes between and souqs. Contemporary examples included: the views of the architects, each architect water towers, Kuwait Towers, Parliament build- emphasised a particular factor. Collectively, the ings, Souq Sharq, Souq Al-Zul Wa Al-Bishut, the interviews represented a wide range of strategies Arab Organisations Headquarters, and the New and approaches to the subject. Due to the absence Seif palace (Fig. 4). of architectural education in Kuwait until 1996, all
  11. 11. 174 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub Figure 4. Examples of contemporary Kuwaiti architecture. a. The Great Mosque. (Photograph from: http://www.islamic architecture.org/ architecture/i/ mosques/kuwait/ i107.jpg) b. Seif Palace. (Photograph from Abdullah Qabazard, architect.) c. Chamber of Commerce. (Photograph by the Author.) d. Souq Sharq. (Photograph by the Author.) the architects graduated from schools of architec- as an architect in the Kuwait Ministry of Public ture in the USA during the 1980s. All of them Works, then worked in private architectural firms. were employed in governmental agencies for He established his own architectural practice, several years before starting their private pro- MAC, in 1999. He stated that ‘before oil was discov- fessional practice (Fig. 5). Below are thematic por- ered buildings were constructed using local traits representing the views of some of the materials and workers, depending mainly on family Kuwaiti architects interviewed for the purpose of needs. After oil was discovered, architecture this study followed by a common themes analysis. reflected individualism, architecture made by Muhamad Al-Khedr graduated from Wisconsin foreign architects with high-quality construction School of Architecture, USA, in 1985. He practised methods and materials.’
  12. 12. 175 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Figure 5. Attempts by Kuwaiti architects to express cultural identity in architecture. a. Salah Al-Farisi Villa by Muhamad Al-Khedr. (Photograph from M. Al-Khedr, architect.) b. Al-Najjar House by Fareed Abdal. (Photograph from F. Abdal, architect.) c. Salmeya Palace by Saleh Al-Mutawa. (Photograph by the Author.) d. Al-Farisi Villa by Jamal Al-Hajji. (Photograph from Jamal Al-Hajji, architect.) For him, the expression of family needs in archi- conditions during the long summer months is an tecture is an important element in the reflection important driving force.’ He recognises that ‘there of local identity. He asserts that ‘traditional desert is some interest towards reflecting traditional architecture, characterised by its courtyards and architecture by the public, but for the purpose of adobe-style construction, should be the source being individual only.’ He believes that: of architectural identity in Kuwait. The impact of There are some attempts to express identity climatic conditions is another factor that reflects a in Kuwaiti architecture, but no present structure true architectural identity. The harsh weather is available that clearly represents the
  13. 13. 176 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub distinctive architectural identity of Kuwait. Kuwait but not laws that are too limiting and restricting Municipality should have an important role in to allow room for creativity. educating the public and organizing some Saleh Al-Mutawa received his BArch from the Uni- regulation for general architectural style, but versity of Miami, Florida, in 1980 and his MArch in unfortunately the municipality is concerned solar passive cooling and heating and architectural more about commercial regulations than archi- renovation in 1982. Saleh published his book, tectural concerns. ‘History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City’, in Fareed Abdal received his MArch from the University 1994 (Al-Mutawa, 1994). In 1994 His Highness the of Wisconsin, USA, in 1983. He has worked in gov- Ameer of Kuwait awarded him a prize for his distin- ernmental, military, and private sectors. He has pub- guished work on preserving traditional Kuwait lished several studies and papers on architecture in Architecture. In 1997 Godfrey Goodwin wrote a Kuwait. He thinks that there is no special architec- book about him entitled ‘Saleh Al-Mutawa: A new tural identity in Kuwait because many buildings Vision in Kuwait’ (Goodwin, 1997). When asked if follow the international style. He also thinks that there is an identity in Kuwaiti architecture today, there should not necessarily be an identity but he replied ‘No, it’s lost, but I am trying to follow it instead there should be an ‘environmental response’ in all of my projects in order to revive it.’ He believes to the climate, thus emphasising the significance of that having an identity in Kuwaiti architecture is the region as a whole. He believes that ‘the only time like having a ‘character and soul of the country when Kuwait had an identity was during the pre-oil which should not be denied or changed.’ He period; the 1950s and before, when architecture considers that the era that represents Kuwaiti represented the society’s environment and its social architecture was before 1940 and that the identity.’ In his opinion the factors that affect principles affecting Kuwaiti architectural identity Kuwaiti architectural identity are natural, cultural, are: vocabularies, proportion, and materials. For behavioural, economical, material, and technical. him the sources of Kuwaiti architecture are ‘Islamic He believes that ‘Arab culture is a response to the architecture and desert architecture.’ He believes desert climate and nature; and also architecture that ‘there should be some incentive for those should represent the environment and our values.’ who try to do Kuwaiti architecture, such as more In his opinion ‘Islam is also an important factor FAR, etc.’ because it is an innate and inborn religion that is Jamal Al-Hajji graduated in the USA in 1991. He related to nature, and is in harmony with nature in has worked in governmental and private agencies. its best form.’ He thinks that ‘the more we assume He believes that ‘Kuwait really had its identity environmental solutions, the more we come closer before 1960 and this began to disappear from to our identity.’ He believes that: 1950, the year of the demolition of the old Kuwait Obligatory guidance restrictions should be given Wall. Currently, Kuwait really doesn’t have any iden- so as to maintain a special architectural identity, tity.’ In his opinion:
  14. 14. 177 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Kuwait identity is more than the elements used in there are architectural elements.’ When asked if old Kuwaiti houses, which are used by some archi- there should be an identity for a Kuwaiti architec- tects today in an attempt to reach an identity. ture, he replied ‘it is not necessary to have an Nobody denies that the elements have a great identity that is applied to every building.’ He believes effect in creating identity, but the real essence of that ‘there is no specific period of time that had a Kuwait identity lies in the architecture of the tra- Kuwaiti architectural identity. Yes, there is Najdi, ditional city. It is primarily an experience of Hijazii, Iraqi architecture, but in Kuwait there is a spaces defined by continuous walls of buildings mixture of these architectures.’ In his opinion, the which are arranged in a way that emphasises factors that affect the identity of Kuwaiti architec- the building volumes. ture are environmental, religious and social, and He believes that ‘we are going through the figural what should be the source of Kuwaiti architecture buildings stage. They are functionally successful, are traditional Kuwaiti architecture, Islamic, Gulf, yet they waste energy and cause pollution in a but not desert and Arabic architecture.‘ He agrees very bad way. We are very connected to these build- that ‘there should be building codes that help in ings because of our ideology that these buildings are finding a Kuwaiti architecture.’ the symbol of Kuwait modernity.’ From his practical experience, the first pressure on the architect is the Outcomes client: ‘Very rarely do you find a client who has an The study revealed that there are commonalities appreciation for identity. There is a group of clients and differences between the views of Kuwaiti that have a wrong understanding of identity and it architects regarding the sources of Kuwaiti cultural needs many sessions to put the client in the right identity. There is a general agreement that the track.’ He thinks that every situation in every climate and the environment have a major influ- project is different from one to another in its ence on the culture of the people and the identity approach to local identity. of architecture. Environmental response to the Tariq Al-Saqabi graduated in the USA in 1984 with climate is a key factor in reflecting the identity of a BSc in Architectural Engineering. He worked in the country. Located in a harsh desert region, several government agencies before becoming a Kuwait suffers from long hot summers that domi- member of the academic staff in the department nate the image of the weather of the country, of architecture at Kuwait University. In his opinion, overshadowing the moderate weather of the ‘there is nothing identifiable as Kuwaiti architecture. winter months. What we have is Gulf architecture, which is a Kuwait’s location on the tip of the Arabian Gulf mixture of Egyptian, Roman, Babylonian and other makes it a representative of Gulf architecture. Its architectures. What is called Kuwaiti architecture is history of sea trading, pearl harvesting and fishing existing architecture influenced by traditions and is part of its traditional cultural identity. Many cultures. So there is no Kuwaiti architecture but architects employ simplistic metaphors of pearl
  15. 15. 178 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub shells and fishing boats in their buildings. The impact Discussion of religion on culture is very significant, and essential The analysis of several examples of Kuwaiti architects’ for understanding the needs of the individual for projects concluded that there are several strategies privacy, family interaction, and space configuration employed by Kuwaiti architects to express a Kuwaiti and orientation. These needs are currently being cultural identity in their work. A three-dimensional modified under the influence of higher economic matrix was developed to illustrate the relationship standards and global consumerist trends. Religion between the ranges of these strategies, use of pre- is also viewed as a unifying force that integrates cedent and building types. The matrix utilises the the individual with nature and society, a notion four design strategies suggested by Broadbent to cat- opposite to the current trend towards individualism egorise the examples (Broadbent, 1973). They are and the display of wealth. identified as pragmatic, iconic, analogical and There is an agreement among architects that canonic. Two more strategies were added to com- there are elements, vocabularies, proportions, and plete the range of the identified strategies; symbolic materials that distinguish traditional Kuwaiti and metaphoric. They are utilised in the matrix architecture, but there is no agreement on according to the following definitions. whether they should be used again or not. Some architects think that the reuse of these elements and vocabulary is essential to achieve a distinctive 1. Pragmatic design strategy utilises the inherited Kuwaiti architectural identity that relates contem- features of traditional architecture and strives to porary architecture to traditional architecture. reproduce them as they were in the past. It Others believe that it is not necessary to use these applies direct copy and paste practices to use elements and vocabularies but it is essential to complete examples or elements from traditional respond to climatic conditions and to the specific architecture. needs of Kuwaitis. 2. Iconic design strategy strives to reproduce the There is recognition among Kuwaiti architects image of traditional architecture by using its that buildings alone are not sufficient to convey elements and vocabularies to produce new build- cultural identity. The context of architecture pro- ing types and functions. vides an important background against which 3. Analogic design strategy aims to produce archi- architecture is understood. Traditional city spaces tecture that resembles traditional architecture provided an important dimension to experience without direct copying and pasting of its and provided a meaningful reading of traditional elements. architecture. When located amongst modern 4. Canonic design strategy endeavours to form cul- streets and buildings, traditional elements and tural identity by applying the principles of tra- vocabularies read more like Disney World than ditional architecture without copying its authentic architecture. elements and shapes.
  16. 16. 179 The Journal of Architecture Volume 12 Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Number 2 Figure 6. A matrix illustrating strategies of expressing cultural identity in architecture. (#the Author.) 5. Symbolic design strategy focuses on reinterpret- ditional architecture and to create dramatic ing the principles and elements of traditional experiences of contemporary cultural identity. architecture and avoids any copying and pasting of elements and shapes. The matrix (Fig. 6) represents the relationship 6. Metaphoric design strategy attempts intention- between these design strategies, sources of identity ally to depart from being associated with tra- and building types and scales. Several examples are
  17. 17. 180 Architecture and the expression of cultural identity in Kuwait Downloaded By: [Kuwait University] At: 07:10 6 November 2007 Yasser Mahgoub used to illustrate the commonalities and differences practised in Kuwait. Future research could investi- between strategies. The results of this study support gate the same phenomenon by applying the same Greig Crysler’s view that ‘a paradigm shift is under- method in different countries and comparing the way, in which discourses that define traditional results systematically. Additionally, research could environments as socially and geographically isolated, focus on the comparison between developing and non-urban, pre-modern spaces (and often located in industrialised countries in terms of architects’ views the so-called Third World) are giving way to those regarding the representation of cultural identity in which constitute “tradition” as a contested site of architecture. power relations in a global context.’ He suggests that The matrix developed by this study is useful for this represents an important shift of emphasis practitioners and observers of contemporary away from idealist conceptions of tradition, to architecture in Kuwait for understanding the those which explore how it is grounded in asym- current trend towards achieving a cultural identity metrical relations of power that shape, and are in architecture. Further research could include shaped by, among others, the state, the global expatriate architects currently practising in Kuwait, economy, the built environment professions, and to compare their views with those of local Kuwaiti writing on tradition itself (Crysler, 2000). architects. It is important to recognise that this is a new trend that is just starting and is changing, Applicability to field and further research with more and more Kuwaiti architects joining this So this search for identity could give us a much movement and new building types being con- greater sensitivity not only to our environment, structed. As in the case of Singapore, but to ourselves and to the society in which we local architects now have better opportunities to live. It is a by-product of looking at our real pro- produce original innovative work, and to actively blems, rather than self-consciously trying to find contribute towards Singapore’s architectural identity as an end in itself, without worrying manifestation and new directions in the evolving about the issues we face. (Correa, 1983.) urban environment. Their intellectual energy This study investigated the views of Kuwaiti archi- must range beyond the restrictive boundaries of tects who attempted to produce cultural identity in architecture and urbanism to include participating their architecture. It analysed examples of their in the theoretical discourse of cultural studies, work, developing a matrix to relate their work to which has now recognized the essentiality of each other’s and to sources of cultural identity. The meaningful local inputs to achieve viable globali- case of Kuwait is relevant to understanding the zation. (Lim, 2004.) same phenomenon recognisable in other parts of The expression of cultural identity is manifested in the world that share many aspects of this experi- many ways. Neil Leach challenged the whole ence. It helps us to understand the contradictory notion of identity as some fixed and stable con- relationship between globalisation and identity as dition: ‘identities must be perceived in the plural,

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