One of the main aspects of Kuwaiti residential neighborhoods is that they all have a sort of uniform density. There is really only one thing you can build, a house on a 400+ m2 plot of land. This would be more than enough for a single family to live comfortably in, with a large garden and all the things that make it feel ‘suburban’.
The problems arise when families feel forced to build larger homes to accommodate more people living in the same house; Kids get married and move into an ‘apartment’ above the house. In the past few years, most newly built homes have been designed as mini apartment buildings. This is because there is no other option. Land is so expensive that they can’t buy a house and they don’t want to move far away from their families.
What if we decided to create a residential block that has a varied set of dwelling types? Think of a generic residential area (something like Qortuba, Adailiya, etc). Most of them have a large complex in the middle, which is usually a big mess of shopping center, mosque, parking and government buildings. What if we demolished all of that and built a huge urban green park surrounded by several 15 to 20 floor apartment buildings? These would be well designed and sustainably built. On the ground plane, we could have shopping and entertainment and underground parking for all the residents. Imagine this being built in every major residential area in Kuwait.
Linked Towers, by Steven Holl
So who would live in these towers? I suggest that for the first few years, only people who already have family living in the same area be allowed to rent an apartment. This would give young couples an affordable option to live close to their family without having to alter their original house and still have the flexibility to easily move out in a few years. The active lifestyle afforded by having a dense cluster of towers around a park/entertainment urban plaza is also something that young people would love to be a part of. Another advantage is that everyone living outside the core now has someplace to walk to and visit that’s close by. As a result of the lowered density there will be far fewer cars lining the roads. Sidewalks can be much wider. We can plant trees to line both sides of every street to shade the whole thing and filter dust from the air. We can’t do that now because there’s no room. If we soak up the density from the entire area and concentrate it in the middle, we can make space for all of this.
We could even take this one step further and link all of these mini urban cores together with the metro. This would allow the people living in them to have the option of living a car-free lifestyle. They still own a car, but they don’t have to use it every day. People always say to me that only migrant workers would end up using the metro. This can be a very good solution to make it easy for Kuwaitis to find great value in using the system too.