Posted by: A. Benjasem | August 12, 2009

Reconstructing Public Parks

I am currently working on a project to re-design a public park as a personal project. If you are unaware, we do have parks in Kuwait. They are, unfortunately, badly designed and poorly maintained. There is in fact a park, or an intention of a park, in every area. Back in the 1980s, a lot of thought and effort was put into making Kuwait greener and more beautiful. Actually, the ministry of public works had issued two plans referred to as Tashjeer and Takhdheer (Tree-planting and green-making respectively). In 1987, they even had plans to create a green belt around Kuwait to protect it from sand storms. My guess is that those projects were interrupted.

PublicParks_location

I started brainstorming ideas for parks in Kuwait when I was training in London. I just couldn’t bare the fact that I will soon be back to a ‘Regents Park’-less place. The weather has always been an issue in Kuwait and it is considered in every project before designing. If the designers of the parks in Kuwait have at least considered the park as a project, then they would have found ways to make this outdoor space more tolerable and enjoyable to the users.

I looked at some parks and interestingly enough they all have the requirements of a successful park. There are one to three playing areas for the kids in each park, toilets and a guard’s room. Some parks even had stretching and exercise benches, which I thought was great, until I touched one and it was burning from the heat. A good element is that one can see that there was some planning put into the location of the trees, grass and sand areas. What I loved the most in the planning is that all parks had a gazebo (a shaded device where people can sit under). Unfortunately, some of the gazebos were in a location that the sun can penetrate.

Parks_utility gazebo

So basically, what I can conclude from my initial observations is that the design of the public park in Kuwait lacks consideration of the sun’s direction. This will be the main concern in the re-constructing of the park along with natural ventilation and passive cooling. These should really be the most important elements while designing an open, outdoor space in a hot, arid country, yet they have been completely ignored!


Responses

  1. It’s sad that the Green Belt is confined to that little strip facing Dasma… and now that hideous red mosque at the other end of the 1st ring road has effectively dashed all hopes to revive it

  2. There should be another design for the green belt because are really in need of it, we get these riduclous sand storms because we are lacking in vegetation.

    Parks are neglected and not maintained, as an issue that you mentioned they aren’t maintained and no real events take palce in those locations. For example if they rented out the location to commercial companies to open up a restaurant or a cafe, some of these places would attract people and at least help to maintain these areas and at that point they would self sufficiant.

  3. A green belt would sure assist in our situation. They can use trees like Athal it adapts well to our environment and grows long.

    Marzouq: I agree with you there, a little privatization won’t harm. Imagine a starbucks in a small corner of the park. Eye candy.

  4. Noooo. Please keep private hands away from these ‘free’ play areas. The last thing I want to see is a Starbucks in a beautiful escape from the urban world. Whoever decided to have McDonalds in parks has little sight!

    A compromise approach would be sponsorship by the private sector. Like they do for the painting of bridges and flowers in roundabouts…

    We need less concrete and more natural material. Wood, more trees with windy paths, benches, a lawn that is watered automatically and maintained. Go for annual plants instead of updating the flower beds every couple of months. We don’t need flowers, use the money to maintain the GREENS. Play areas are nice and those should of course be maintained and modernised. Paint the fencing.

    There is a lovely little park in Abu Halifa. This is how our larger parks should look and feel. I’, a regular user of the park in Fintas – which has soooo much potential. The first thing I would do there is remove the McDonalds!

    Good luck with the project. I wish you success.

  5. Thanks Bu Yousef. You do have a point about leaving free areas money free, but a McDonalds or a Starbucks would do a lot of good around a park. I visit Mishrif Park at times, and honestly it’s Mcdonalds’ drinks that sustain us. It doesn’t have to be a brand cafe, it could be a small Dikkan selling ice creams and Tea with milk. So that the colors and form of the place can go along well with the park (unlike McDonalds which doesn’t go with anything)

    Although coming to think of it, I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to enter a park. This would definitely keep the some bad boys out.

  6. my Dear,
    I just had an idea when I saw the pics of drawings on the walls, and said to my self why don’t we make a very big wall and name it “Draw & Paint Here” or “Show us your WOW on this Wall” that would be a great idea, plus pple will not paint on the other walls and pillars, so they don’t have an excuse, plus you can see how pple get creative with their sprays.

    Just an idea, imagine it, put it on a paper. and there you Go!

    Regards,
    Fahad

  7. Goodluck with this project!

    It would be great to have nice parks around in Kuwait that people can go out and enjoy themselves in, especially when the weather is nice!

    Green areas are desperately needed in Kuwait not only for the children, but for adults to have something else to do!

  8. Guards room? The thought made me uncomfortable. Are they really needed?

  9. Fahad: That’s a cool idea which might work nicely with kids. But the people who draw are rebellious teenagers, they just want to break the rules🙂

    eleventh-st: thanks, and hopefully this project will allow people to enjoy the outdoors in hot weather too.

  10. Faysal, just noticed it’s you.
    Well yes. For security purposes of course. In the small parks I visited however, this man is also the gardener. He’s pretty important.

  11. Been me all along😀.

    Sure, a gardener is important. He actually adds a layer (romantic?) to the whole idea of the park. But I would argue you that a true public space is one that regulates itself, or rather, allows the public to regulate it without the explicit use of Security or an kind of centralized control. Of course, this can, and in fact should be done through design (isn’t that part of the design problem of public space? To create a sense of safety through design?).

    I guess I’m being a little unfair here, it would be a lot easier if you set out to explain what in fact constitutes the typology of a park, and compare it to other typologies of public space. For example, when you use the word park, are you referring to a somewhat controlled, enclosed open space with restricted access and specific amenities? Or do think it is a green belt that seamlessly injects itself into the urban fabric. I can argue that from your words, you are imagining it to be part of the city fabric, and not gated pieces of farmlands in the city.

    I understand this is a silly example (the existence or non-existence of the wall around a park), but it is nonetheless very important. It motivates some people to enter a park, but simultaneously discourages others. It’s really a political issue at heart. Is the park really for everyone?

    I am raising these questions because you say that part of these green belt’s failure is the lack of consideration of the existing climate on the design decisions. While I agree with you there, I think the problem also lies in the lack of understanding of the politics of public spaces, and the lack of integration with the urban fabric (I have not been to Kuwait, but I am only assuming according to other similar models I’ve seen).

  12. I know which park you too those pictures from. I basically grew up in that park. I still remember when they opened up in 1998, that place was a stunner. But now its more like a junkies park.
    I’ve read much of this blog, and I admire the purpose behind this blog. Sadly, I believe it is more than impossible to get back to the good old days of Kuwait.
    I can explain this, but you already know what I mean. Kuwait needs a more than a wake up call, more than just a cup of coffee to wake up…

  13. Faysal:
    You bring a beautiful concept where the public space regulates itself, nonetheless it’s for an ideal world (i.e not in Kuwait).
    You’re right though, concerning the typology of the project. Teenagers are not spray painting trees along the roads (or greenbelts). It is probably the confinement of the space that creates this rebellious act with the kids to damage the property. However, the fences and gates around a park are simply there because the park, intentionally at least, is maintained and therefore has working and closing hours. The fences are there to regulate the timing, so that at night the park can be closed. I doubt that the fence creates a barrier for some people and makes them hesitant to enter.
    I don’t think that what you said regarding integrating the park in the urban fabric was silly. In fact it’s brilliant I’ll definitely consider it while designing. Thanks. Keep ’em coming.

  14. B:
    Thank you for the kind words.
    The pictures were taking from a park in Surra area. It was opened in early 80s.
    Although, I’m not sure we want to go back to the old days as much as going back to the right track. The old days had many good qualities, like the ones found in the old type housing of Kuwait. It is very sad, I agree with you, that in the old days they were more aware of the “right things to do” than now.

  15. I think the green belt idea / concept was introduced in the early 1950’s around Kuwait City (between the first ring road and Sour street), and only 20% of that strip was made into a park in the late 1950’s.

  16. GREEN is the color, the world is talking about today.

    Kuwait definitely lacks good public gardens where families can enjoy a pleasant evening or a day out. As it is there are poor outdoor recreation facilities in Kuwait. A green garden definitely makes your mornings fresh and the evenings relieve your stress of the day, beside making the kids more mixing and sportive.

    I feel that there should be a governing body which sees that the green cover in Kuwait increases and flourishes. There has to be a high level vision and action to make Kuwait green. In fact a project of this kind would enhance the image of Kuwait amongst the world countries and make it proud.

    Regards,
    Q8Life
    http://q8life.wordpress.com

  17. is this the project ur working on??

    http://alwatandaily.alwatan.com.kw/Default.aspx?MgDid=788369&pageId=473

  18. Selam ,
    you have hit a raw nerve with this article, i have always wanted someone to bring up the subject of the public parks and most importantly , the lousy quality of the landscape architecuture in the agriculture authority which is incharege of the the design and the construction and maintenance of these public areas and also the lanscaping of the buffer zones on the road shoulders and so on ,
    as a small example of u look closely and most public parks , there is two lousy standards which is a must for them in every new park , one is the concrete fence ! and the other is that all around the park there should be a ring of sand/dirt , and the heavy landscaping should be limited to the inner areas of the park , which as a result create an unwelcoming effect for drivers , passerbys and so on.
    u can see it on google earth and a drive to one of the recent parks , ( the park in shuwaikh B residnetial area is a good example , which u wont know its a park or a graveyard until u walk maybe 100 m beyond the fence .

  19. Q8life: I totally agree with you there about the “green”. I believe there are existing plans and new plans to make Kuwait greener, however, planning is one thing, execution is another.

    K5: No, I’m doing it as a personal project. It is exciting though to know that Kuwait is changing.

  20. You mentioned a few good points Yousef. One reader thought a park’s guard is too much, wait till he knows about the brick fence! The fact that they need to enclose the space with a solid wall, doesn’t make the park welcoming. Although I do think a green fence is important to mark the space, it should be around 1.5m in height with a few openings as pass ways.
    I’ve always wondered what would Kuwait be like if some public facilities were designed or maintained by private sector. Just a few, like cleaning of the streets, the landscaping on the road and maybe parks?

    • well the best public parks in my opinion are the waterfronts side parks .. the marina and the scientific center .. those are the ones that are well maintained to a certain extent , i usually go biking from the end of the scientific center to souq sharq and actually my bike feels the difference more than me … i guess what we need is the education of the need for the landscape architects … which in those two projects i know they were involved and did a good job…
      also look at the hilton resort .. where SOM involved a qualified landscape architect to do it …
      i guess looking at those projects in the satellite images in google earth would tell u alot .
      i say what i say based on my invlovement in the marina and hilton projects ..

  21. Been reading for a while and just thought of commenting. Yes, parks/green space is a necessity in any city, not just for beautification purposes, but also for the psychological well being of people working/living in the area surrounding the park. I really would like to see the Baladiya Park on Jahra road/Fahad alsalem street opposite ministry of justice to be upgraded with proper trees and plants (other than that hideous conacarpus (sp?)) or atleast converted into a skateboarding/rollerblading parkm, with green space ofcoruse, to encourage people iof all ages to move to the city for entertainment.

    • The first thing I’d do is just tear down the walls that fence the parks. There’s already a full time guard posted in every park. Why do we need to lock the gates? A fence usually does more to keep bad behavior hidden than prevent it.

  22. You know, I’ve always wanted to make Kuwait greener and I was always like: “The majority of people just don’t care enough, and even the people who do care aren’t doing anything about it!” But this is very refreshing to know that theres so many like minded people out there i7amdilah! Now I know you’re working on this project Barrak, but what would it take to actually put it into action? I mean we’re all talking here, we all got great ideas and we all want to do something about it. So lets do something about it! Let’s create a group of some sort, where we can get our public parks renovated and get new ones in place.

    Any ideas on how to approach this? Im thinking we should start a nonprofit organization where we can use politician influence and financial means to serve our community the way it should be!

  23. Sorry, i meant Amenah* not Barrak.


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