Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | December 5, 2009

SAM Street

Salem alMubarak Street has the potential to become (once again) an integral urban element of Kuwait. What would happen if we simply remove the street? How would a pedestrian promenade work?

Please be sure to read through Tom’s excellent post on the subject at Kuwait School. I’d argue that it might be overkill to attempt to redesign the entire strip. The western part of SAM street is narrower than the east, and has a much better ‘human’ scale which feels very pleasant. It’s also more feasible politically to consider only the western half.

The western entrance to SAM street, from the 4th ring road

Diagrams:

Proposed site

The site of the promenade is linear and anchored by large open spaces. The spatial character at each end is very different, with the west being loud and bright (advertising, 4th ring road) and the east quiet and mellow. The linear transition between the two ends should reflect this change in character of the space.

There are some really interesting buildings in there. The star of the show is definitely the alAnjiri complex, the big one to the right of the Z shaped thing on the left. Jasem is going to conduct a separate detailed analysis of that great building. The southern strip is also very intriguing. Some have a wonderful shared courtyard behind them (which is sadly not utilized well). This has enormous potential to allow for a porous ground level to allow people to walk through and into the courtyard.

The image above is of one of the courtyards behind the buildings along SAM street. My HDR software went crazy and tried be an impressionist painter. Anyway, you can see that there’s quite a lot of shade and great potential for some really wonderful uses for that space.

Parking will obviously be an issue, but there are three major lots, with the one on the top right being a large multi-story parking. Even so, I doubt that this would be enough seeing as how we’re taking so many away. A new large multi-story might have to be built where the lower left lot is now since that is conveniently located and to balance out with the other one.

Existing Trees

Proposed Trees

Well, maybe not that dense, but the point is that the southern side of SAM street will be shaded by the buildings, while the north side will need trees or some other form of shading device. The street is very wide, and can actually have a real linear park going all the way through it; with grass and fountains and landscape architecture and whatever. The existing trees are old and valuable and we have to keep them, so any landscape design would be generated from them.

This is just a quick and dirty example just to show the scale of the place without the street and curb. It’s actually a lot bigger than it seems at first. Any intervention has to be aware of this not to end up being too open.

The island in the middle of SAM street

I think SAM street is probably one of the best spaces in Kuwait where a real public space can happen. A place where people can go window shopping and listen to live music and buy food from street vendors. The intervention is relatively minor but the potential is incredible. We can ignore it and let it suffocate or we breathe new life into the street and create something that Kuwait doesn’t really have; a lively, free and open public space.


Responses

  1. Glad someone appreciates Anjari Complex. After the Gulf War I moved into anjari complex where I currently still live. It’s a really well built building and I love my apartment. If Jasem needs anything, a tour or info let him contact me.

  2. On Friday, I was early for a dinner at the Fish Market so I had some time to walk around there for the first time in (embarrassed to say) 20 years! The potential is as you rightly say huge. I was admiring the trees, some of the buildings and imagining how it would look if some thought was put into its future.

    The thing that rally gives it character is its history. A very young street – but compared regionally it’s one of the older club members.

    Good article. Good luck with the detailed analysis.

  3. Mark, please help me with this this coming Wednesday. I really would appreciate it.

  4. Jasem email me
    http://www.248am.com/contact-us/

  5. thanks 4 the gr8 post
    !

  6. I always thought SAM should be a pedestrian street; the way it was orignially planned. Those metered parking spots in old SAM, and the one lane one way road was built later on since people did not really want to walk back then. I think the culture changed and it’s about time to make it pedestrian again.

    If you liked the buildings you mentioned you mentioned above, there is a bunch of interesting buildings in hawalli and salmiya; I hope they don’t demolish them to build “anorexic” building – lifeless, slim, and with no character

  7. It seriously should be turned into an outdoor venue, and routing the cars to the rear and around. Fixing the infrastructure in the rear will help immensely. For once Kuwait would have a nice outdoor area with lots of green possibilities.

    Great Article! Keep it Up!

  8. Youre such a devoted pal, love your posts

  9. Marzouq: The space has incredible potential not only as a public venue, like you said, but also lots of commercial potential. The space would have a huge competitive advantage over similar spots such as the Slider Station strip; SAM street restaurants face a beautiful linear park while the strip faces a parking lot. The trick is to coordinate with the tenants and maybe set up a cooperative holding company that regulates and maintains the space, deciding which tenants are allowed to set up shop and what they’re allowed to do. Preference should be given to Kuwaiti start-ups and not established chains that you can find everywhere (Starbucks, Mc’ds, etc). The place has to have a unique character, and shouldn’t be seen as just an ‘outdoor mall’.


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