Why is architectural and design innovation in Kuwait so rare? What is holding back architects and designers from expressing their full intent and exploring new ideas? We can’t simply blame the economic crisis, as this poverty of innovation has been around for decades. Not since the sixties have we seen real architectural progress in this country. Why?
Land Value: Residential and Commercial land values have skyrocketed in the past decade. This phenomenon is seen around the globe, but in Kuwait, the average value of a suburban residential plot is far above normal. Young people are finding it impossible to enter the housing market. Developing land and designing projects becomes an exercise in squeezing as much usable space as possible. People feel that they have to maximize the use of their land, otherwise they would be wasting it. You end up having identical mini-mansions that are constructed to the absolute maximum of building code limits. Almost every new house built in the past few years is much bigger than it has to be. This psychological factor forces clients to feel as if they’re not getting their money’s worth and will always force projects to be bloated and suffocate the space.
The Sun: For around 9 months of the year, the weather in Kuwait is wonderful. In the three months of extreme heat we can employ passive cooling methods, building orientation and massing to create comfortable micro-climates that manipulate the weather and make it surprisingly bearable. The sun has a profound effect on the design decisions being made in Kuwait. We can either work with the sun and find ways to adapt our building methods, or we can surrender and hide in refrigerators.
Jealousy: Unfortunately, Kuwaitis have long been trapped in a cycle of jealousy and spite. Enormous wealth often brings with it the desire to show off and prove superiority. This leads to people going out of their way to inhibit the success of others and to suffocate every attempt at creating competition. This ultimately leads to design stagnation, which is seen in the stale and uninspiring environment we inherited.
-The Solution? We need to have a design revolution that would shatter the myths and change our patterns of living. We are isolating ourselves from each other and from the environment in ways that are harmful to our mind, body and spirit. We have to reject the easy answers and ask the right questions.
I am not satisfied with Kuwait City. I feel that the direction it is heading in is not sustainable. We live in bigger homes with colder air conditioners, but are our lives really any better because of them? We fear change and progress, but where are we going by standing still?