Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | May 24, 2009

Urbanism?

The evolution of urbanity in Kuwait is a deeply contradictory process rooted in a profound lack of self awareness and a shameful desertion of cultural and social identity.

Whatever remains of our authentic urban language has devolved into a Disney-fied parody of tradition. A predictably fake repetition of a superficial ‘cultural’ facade. We live in fake urbanism. We drive around a plastic city. What happened?

In our pubescent rush to modernize we replaced our urban tradition with mostly western models; large air-conditioned shopping malls, glittering office towers and suburban segregated residential divisions. The practices that were imported were not assimilated into our building methods and cultural code. It replaced them. Looking at Kuwait City today we see almost no hints of a historic fabric, only remnants and oddities of archeological interest. It is a city built on a tabula rasa. Projects are conceived independently, as with the western archetype, with only a cursory hint at the context which surrounds them. This results in very little cohesion within the urban condition. Business districts being evacuated after work hours. Residential areas crammed and suffocated with houses but no room for space to breathe.

This is our city. It is what it is, and complaining about it won’t change a thing. What we will propose in re:kuwait are pragmatic solutions to specific problems and broader strategies that might help Kuwait City slowly regain its urban dignity. There are already some indications of positive growth happening in places and we will highlight those whenever we can. Then there is Aswaq Al-Qurain.

fn25_2

At first, I honestly thought this was a joke. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The soviet educated imbecile that ‘designed’ this monstrosity needs to be castrated, quartered and burned. I’ll do it myself if I see him. I know it’s a him because only a man would have the balls and arrogance to excrete this shit. This project is about the same size as Al-Jabriya! What were they thinking? Imagine the worst residential co-op, with all the inherent parking mess, multiplying to what appears to be infinity. What program could possibly require such an array of identical boxes? This is wrong. Yet it exists. It not only exists, but it’s being aggressively marketed as a unique destination where all our consumer dreams are realized.

qurain

As an architect, it simply blows my mind that a client would ever accept such drivel. This is a perfect example of the level of urban poverty that has befallen us. What is this? Planting some palm trees doesn’t absolve you of your duty to integrate a project into your site. Having a small budget doesn’t mean you don’t generate a concept. This is lazy design created by square meter calculations and rental pricing studies. It is design by spreadsheet. We have to burn this.


Responses

  1. hi, congrats on the website, its really time that there were more blogs in kuwait dedicated to causes and important topics that affect the country-i like your idea of tabula rasa urbanization, its really accurate. look forward to hearing more from you guys.

  2. I applaud your passion..!

    It, combined with a bit of empirical focus, lots of perseverance, creative flair, constructive debate and a lack of cynicism – as well as the collaboration by a collective of light minded (if certainly not always agreeing) souls, will hopefully, eventually, begin making a difference…

    Perhaps the starting point would be to establish a ‘real’ institute or society for architects in Kuwait, a la RIBA or AIA (instead of being a mere sub-chapter of the Engineering Society) would help to but the discipline in(to) its proper position and context..?

    Tom

  3. @Tom: Thanks! I know that this nascent attempt at inciting change might ultimately (and will probably) be futile. I’ve been working as an architect in Kuwait for only a few years, and yet, I have almost lost faith in what we do. I don’t think people realize the potential that good architecture and urban design can offer. To the people in power, we are nothing more than glorified draftsmen. I do however have faith that things will change and that through collective action we will surely make a difference.

    About the Kuwaiti Architectural Society, i’m sure my partner Jasem would love to talk about this as he is infinitely more informed about local politics than I am, so i’ll leave that to him.

  4. Great insight,t I agree with you a hundred percent.

    To me the questions is rather: How can we prevent such monstrosity to take place again?

    Knowing how people make decisions in Kuwait I expect many brothers and sisters to AswaQ AlQurain to pop up everywhere very soon.

    PS: I believe its an import from Saudi, not sure though.


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