Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | February 14, 2010

Qortuba Block 2

I’m going to try a quick redesign of Qortuba Block 2. First, here it is as is:

I’m going to restrict myself into not altering the inlets to Qortuba, and leave the institutional buildings on the main road as they are. What I can change are the street layouts and the density and location of the residential plots. The goal is to turn it into a self-sustaining, livable and walkable area while still having a similar number of homes as before, which is about 750 villas. Right in the middle of Block 2 is a strange little island of commercial properties along with a large Kindergarten that I attended as a kid. The first thing I would do is take that island out and spread it in a linear fashion along the perimeter, where the heavy traffic is. It doesn’t make sense to hide it the way it is now.

I’d also expand the green belt that surrounds the block further in, and restrict the residential block to a squarish element that runs parallel to the main roads of Qortuba. The commercial strip would have ample parking at the front and back. I’d imagine a long line of cafes, grocery shops, hair dressers, laundry, daycare centers and lots of other stuff that you need close to home. Most people will be able to walk to these from where they live. The green belt would have lots and lots of trees (it already does!) and would be open to the public. This means that it’s no longer considered an ‘irtidaad’ the way it is now. There would be a long well lit place to run, maybe a caged football pitch and lots of benches.

Now this is where it gets tricky. I would design two different street widths. The main perimeter streets are two-way, while the interior streets are one-way. The point here is that since streets take up so much space, having them be one-way means that you save half the space. The interior streets would alternate directions, with odd number streets being one direction and even numbers in the other. This means that every home is only accessible from one direction, but I think this is an inconvenience worth having for the sake of saving space.

The slices are pedestrian streets. They will chop up the boring boxes into weird little triangles. These ‘in-between’ spaces are what gives each neighborhood its own distinct character. This is how people would walk to the commercial strip or to the green belt. The slices sometimes create an awkward space. This doesn’t go to waste. It can turn into a simple playground, or if it’s big enough, a mosque or a library. The purpose is to layer a pedestrian network over the street, so that people don’t always feel as if they’re subservient to cars. In order for this to work there has to be a reason to go out to walk and place to walk to; the green belt, the commercial strip and the little things to do in the awkward spaces.

The homes themselves would be very dense and they would all be attached to each other, separated only when a pedestrian street slices through them. This would further intensify and direct people into the pedestrian streets as it’s easy to identify them. The reason why I want the house to be attached is because you save lots of space and they shade each other.


Responses

  1. I would like to make you head of planning in Kuwait! You would seriously help refresh our residential areas, and no more blocks of houses, all squares, all the same! And Ugly colors and building to the edge of the plot! Drives me nuts!

  2. I liked where you were going with the rationality behind the two-way/one-way streets and introducing an avenue at a smaller scale at the main road, but you lost me at the slices of pedestrian streets. I appreciate the individuality it would present for each quarter of the neighborhood but in terms of practicality, i’m not sure how it would work.

  3. Hah, thanks Marzouq. It drives me crazy too, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

    dana, i’m not sure how it would work either. And that’s the point, I think, if that makes any sense…

    When a big chunk is sliced that’s too small for a house, it’s obvious that you can build something on it; like I mentioned, a mosque, or a playground or whatever. But most of them won’t be that big, and they’ll end up being something unique; a playground, or a sculpture, or just a simple landscape patch with a bench. You experience these little vignettes as you walk (or bike, or rollerblade) along the pedestrian streets, on your way to the park or the shop to buy some groceries.

    The slices themselves, think of the master plan of Washington DC on a much smaller scale:

    Honestly, i’m not sure how it would work either. On a purely functional level, it’s a way for people to move sideways through the landscape (since the ‘streets’ are only on one axis). But I want them to be more than just horizontal streets. I imagine that’s where public life will happen. That’s where kids would meet to go walk to the park, being followed not far behind by their obligatory maids.

    It’s where you’ll find old people sitting on benches outside their homes, being shaded by the buildings and the trees, much in the same way their grandparents used to in the 30’s. It’s a way to reintroduce a layer of PUBLIC space back into the designed, residential development.

    The reason why they’re not perpendicular is that part of the fun of walking is just discovering things. You have to turn a corner, and find out what’s on the other side. Maybe the slices can curve, and get wider in some places. Maybe they lead to a dead-end. It doesn’t matter, because you’re walking, or riding your bicycle, and you can always know where you are because the streets are numbered incrementally and you just follow the grid.

    I’m starting to ramble a bit, but I guess what i’m trying to say is that it might be a good idea to separate the ‘car street’ from a ‘pedestrian street’ to allow for a renewal of public space to occur.

    Edit: Maybe i’m misinterpreting your question. The houses, because of the slices, end up being cut into weird shapes. That’s not a problem. In fact, it might give the designer a lot more options because there’s a pedestrian side street that can be incorporated into the design. Nothing is really wasted.

  4. We need to beautify this country, nice sidewalks, pedestrian areas, a minimum of two trees or palm trees in front of houses.

    El baraka feekum my friend. I hope one day your smart, green-conscious generation can pla, rise and run things here.

  5. Great concept, I just doubtn that one way streets will work here hehe.

    Making a city or a neighbourhood pedestrian friendly (or more like pedestrian oriented) has great social, environmental and health benefits.

    Have you ever wandered in Kuwait City? I love walking there. it was designed to be pedestrian friendly; wide sidewalks, plenty of plazas behind major roads. you can basically walk from one end of KC to the other with minimal major road crossing. They just ruined that atmosphere by widening roads, and well building a highway.

    Alot of hidden architectural gems in those plazas and pedestrian roads.


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