Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | November 4, 2009

Streets

Our neighborhoods have gradually evolved to become almost exclusively dominated by the automobile. A neighborhood is more than a random collection of houses. We should strive to create rich, safe and healthy places to live. We need to create a strong framework that can help develop a robust social fabric and restore the feeling of a proud community.

8. Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.

I’m not sure how this can be retro-fit into our existing neighborhoods. Most of our inner streets are branches off a main 1st street that wraps around the neighborhood. The problem is that there is no overlaying pedestrian network to augment the streets.

People just don’t walk anymore. This means that there’s very little chance for an accidental meeting with neighbors. The space outside our homes used to be a lively social place, but now it’s an architectural afterthought; a place for mechanical process and service. There is no life outside the boundaries of our homes anymore. People have become anonymous strangers in their own neighborhoods because there is nothing that connects them with each other. The space between the home and street is where we can reintroduce this framework.

roads

9. The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.

I think we should experiment with the idea of a shared space; meaning a street that has none of the traditional means of dividing up the road into pedestrian/vehicle areas (no curb, only road markers). This seems counter-intuitive, but wherever it’s implemented it has improved pedestrian safety by slowing down cars. Of course, this might be asking too much of Kuwaitis, but it might be feasible in areas within the neighborhood center which might have a schedule whereby driving could be prohibited at weekends.

800px-New_Road,_Brighton_-_shared_space

10. Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.

This is all about shading and creating a pleasant micro-climate. The courtyard cooling effect is our main weapon here; trapping a pool of cool air that is further cooled through mechanical and passive means. The center should have lots of seating and fountains. It’s the heart of the community and where the main mosque of the neighborhood is located where Friday, Qiam and Eid prayers are held.

Public-Plaza

11. Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.

This, of course, is a major part of the problem. Even when a pavement exists, it is usually filled entirely with cars. This forces people to walk on the street, which either makes them decide not to walk or exposes them to avoidable danger. This has to stop. There has to be a mechanism for punishing people for having more cars than they can handle. I would much rather have cars park on the street than on the sidewalk, actually. That would be a better solution, as it means that there is always a safe place to walk. To make this happen, new legislation would decree that a 2-3m wide sidewalk adjacent to the street on both sides of the road is public property and all cars parked on it will be fined.

qortuba_street

Of course, you can still park your car on the street. Instead of having shading devices that used to cover the parked cars, we should plant trees that line every street. This looks a lot better than shades, and also filters dust from the air.

In places where the road is way too big, we could simply increase the size of the sidewalk so that you can both park your car and walk comfortably at the same time. I’m not sure if its feasible to have street fronts that are completely devoid of cars, but the current situation should not continue.

SideAlley

-A rare side alley in a Kuwaiti neighborhood


Responses

  1. Wow many of the same problems that you are speaking of, I remember them very distinctly from my years living in Kuwait in the 1990’s.


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