Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | October 28, 2009

Mixed-Use Neighborhoods

A decision was made a long time ago to divide Kuwait into distinct zones; residential, offices, industrial and commercial. At the time it seemed like a natural thing to do. I remember doing it all the time playing Sim City as a kid. This is where people work, this is where they live, and that’s where they play.

The problem with this is that you end up with very dedicated zones that serve a very specific purpose. People tend to work at the same time, sleep at night, and have fun at the weekend. This creates a lot of migration at predictable patterns which results in traffic from the evacuating masses, redundant spaces and a wasteful allocation of resources.

A good example of trying to break up this pattern is the location of The Avenues. Simply having a shopping mall located outside the designated ‘shopping district’ allowed for a completely new pattern to emerge. We need to do more of this and break up the monolithic ‘zones’ into more mixed-use spaces where people live, work and play.

4. At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.

This is fairly self explanatory. A lot of areas in Kuwait already have this and they’re successful in reducing the number of car trips the residents around them make. The goal here is to have them in locations where it is easy and safe to approach them by foot. If more people walk to them and the stigma against walking is overcome, we’ll see the option of walking become safer and more pleasant. People feel safer when other people are around.


5. A small ancillary building or garage apartment is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (for example, an office or craft workshop).

This would be very successful in Kuwait. Many young people have ambitions of starting a side-business or workshop, but don’t have the money to rent an office or don’t want to bother with another daily commute. This would provide a way for them to make that happen while also transforming our neighborhoods into a lively, mixed use live-work environment.



  1. I just went through your blog and I must say, you’ve got the most refreshing content I’ve seen in a while. Instead of reviewing food or complaining, you’re coming up with feasible ways to make Kuwait a better place for citizens and visitors.
    I featured you in Gulf Bank’s monthly newsletter! Everyone should know about your efforts and ideas. Kudos to you and keep up the fabulous work!

  2. Thank you Farah so much for your efforts in supporting us.

  3. Oh my God! You played Simcity! I love that game!

    Back on-topic. I do lean towards the development variety argument with commercial, office and residential mixed in. However I also see the other side’s argument about maximized usage.

    A question though: Doesn’t the supermarket/Mosque/Governmental Buildings fulfill the variety role?

  4. Of course! All the way back from the original.

    Yes, but are they so big and centralized? I think we should experiment with breaking it up into smaller pieces. The fragments would then be placed where people need them, and hopefully this would create a more pleasant, walkable neighborhood where everything you need is just a short walk away. If people think that walking is useless, they’ll treat it as such. This results in a vicious cycle whereby every action makes it harder to walk (smaller sidewalks, no benches, no shading, etc). What we need to do is create a virtuous cycle where every action we take makes it easier and better to walk (safer roads, wider sidewalks, lighting, shade, benches, places to go to, etc) and this would encourage more people to walk which would help make the place safer and continue the upwards spiral.

    If the only way you can get your groceries is if you drive to the shopping mall that’s less than a minute away by car, then this will never happen.

  5. My feelings are as follows:

    The government should build, somewhere, in the city a large, yet atheistically pleasing, building to house all the ministers. This building should hold all the important offices. In every district of Kuwait their should be a smaller branch of those ministers. In those smaller branches the residents of that distract work in dealing with any issue that arise in their district.

    So instead of them going to work in a far off place far removed from their ‘hood’s troubles, they can instead work closer to home and deal with those local issues instead of have someone 5hours away deal with it.

    These branches would all be linked up to the main building, and each other, thorough a special subway line, assuming our government get it’s act together, thus it becomes easier to commute between each branch should a problem occur that requires the effected branches to work together, like say some kind of pollution on the shore…hypothetically speaking that is.

    This idea is due to my belief that the government should be centralized with branches every way so as to help streamline line resources to local areas, and opinions from the local to the central.

    This central idea would only be in the center of a ‘hood and would expand smaller branches if it needs to. The same would apply to schools, clinics, and such. With the large ones at the center servicing/feeding the most people, while the smaller branches dealing with the edges until they grow large enough to require their own branch.

    In an ideal world this would work. However we don’t live in an ideal world, thus we need to create infrastructure that would help this system work (subways, fiber optic connections, proper road planning, and a population that isn’t fully retarded)

    Please note that commercial, residential, and industrial zones can grow and expand as the needs and wants system requires.

    I love SimCity! 8D

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