The urban form of Kuwait City is going through major developments. Tall buildings of commercial use are starting to take over. But are we going in the right direction? Let us take a few minutes to examine the issues related to the tall buildings of Kuwait.
Materiality: One similarity that governs tall buildings here is the choice of one material; Glass. No doubt there are obvious advantages that are offered with the use of glass curtain walls; Availability of glass by fabrication, low cost and aesthetic value are a few of them. Moreover, view and ventilation are two main reasons for using glass. Sadly in Kuwait, the weather is dusty therefore the glass looks dirty most of the time. For eight to nine months, the temperature in Kuwait varies from 35-50 degrees. Ventilation by opening the window is not a choice in those towers as all the cool air conditioned air will escape.
Orientation: You might not really appreciate the importance of orientation until you work in an office facing south or west. The building’s orientation is very important anywhere, but especially in hot countries like Kuwait. In the northern hemisphere the sun rises from the East, moves South and sets in the West. Western walls of buildings should be insulated as much as possible. From what I’ve seen, it is as if the architects design the building as a stand-alone element in the middle of nowhere, then they stick it on site. There is no regard whatsoever to the amount of heat transferred through the glass to the interiors.
Identity: At a glance, the tall glass buildings in Kuwait look pretty much the same. One can argue that most of the tall buildings here don’t have an identity. Except Dar alAwadi and the under construction United Towers, the buildings are a simple extruded footprint. Identity in a building doesn’t necessarily mean to make it look Kuwaiti. It is completely wrong to take buildings designed for the States and force them in desert environment like Kuwait. A simple regard for the heat, dust and other regional aspects will eventually result in much better buildings.
Context: In every design project, the architects ask the question of whether they want the building to stand out or to blend in with it’s surrounding. Although I do believe that every designer has the right to create something that is unique which could be regarded as a landmark, I wonder at times what would happen if every architect decides that their building should stand out. What would happen to the overall urbanism of Kuwait city? would it look like Las Vegas or Dubai.
These simple yet profoundly important elements are critical to the success of any building. Looking around at our burgeoning skyline, it seems obvious that they are being taken for granted. Many buildings use wildly incorrect materials, are blind to orientation, lack in identity and are oblivious to their context. These are not complicated issues, yet their effect on space is enormous. Let’s try to get it right.