What is a Kuwaiti home? How do we define it? To begin answering this question, we first have to define what being Kuwaiti and living a Kuwaiti lifestyle is and then attempt to manifest this into a built environment. A home has to find a balance between the environmental factors of the site and the lifestyle choices of it’s inhabitants.
Of course, no two people are exactly the same, but we can at least identify the basic needs, aspirations and cultural parameters that makes a person Kuwaiti. We all have a basic desire for personal privacy. Nobody wants to live in a Dutch house where the activity inside is visible to all passersby. We all have a desire for closely knit families where all three meals are shared and as much time is spent together as possible. Most people feel the need to have a dedicated public space to entertain guests.
Our climate is basically dry, intense heat in the summer with north western winds. Winters are cool and slightly humid. The dry heat can be mitigated through shading and evaporative cooling. The winters are gorgeous and need very little manipulation to feel comfortable in.
Taking these basic rules one would assume that we would be living in courtyard houses which are inward looking. This would allow for maximum privacy and create a microclimate which would lower the heat gain of the house and create comfortable outdoor spaces even in the hottest days of summer. This is how Kuwaitis traditionally lived. Courtyard houses in well established neighborhoods where all the amenities are available at a walking distance.
Yet as we look around today at the vast majority of houses in Kuwait we see that they are all giant pancake houses. We live in refrigerators in the desert. When did this change in mentality happen? Why did we blindly adopt the western model of a house in the middle of the plot with windows looking out in every direction?
Look around at all the houses in Kuwait with the giant windows facing the street. It seems that almost all of them always have the curtains drawn or simply shuttered completely. Why have the windows so big in the first place? The simple act of having them higher than your eye level means that you can see the sky and let the light in, but not have people look into your house from the street.
Why do people feel as if bigger is always better? Huge rooms for your kids means that they will have everything they need. They will not only sleep and study in them, but they will entertain themselves and their friends and you will never see them. If we think of a child’s room as simply being a place to study and sleep then you will find that you see them far more often. They will be forced to leave the room to be entertained. They will learn the art of conversation instead of being trapped in their big, fun playrooms. You would also save the reclaimed space for more important things, like a shaded outdoor area with greenery and natural light.
The choices people have in entry level real estate is pathetic. All the houses look the same and they don’t belong in Kuwait. In the coming weeks we will highlight alternatives that are cost effective and are adapted to our climate and culture. We cannot continue on the same unsustainable path. We have to wake up.