Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | February 21, 2010

Wasted Space

A wonderfully simple video about efforts to retrofit suburbia. There are a few things we can take that apply to Kuwait. We don’t have the problem of having to ‘fill in’ the gaps, because most of our suburbs are very densely packed. The thing I found most appealing in the video is the notion of the ‘third place’.

The first two places are your home and workplace. The third place is where you go to hang out and is very important for a younger generation (like ours). We have lots of third places, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. The problem is that they’re usually really far away from where we live.

I’ll use Qortuba again as an example of an opportunity to create something. Here it is again:

In the middle is Block 5, a service block which has the shopping center, park, a couple of schools and some other services. On the corner, though, there’s a dead space. It’s huge, but it’s been deserted forever. Sometimes we have Eid Prayer there, but not last year, so we can cope without it. What can we do with this dead space?

The best opportunity is to expand the park to fill up all the sand. We can’t move the big boxes, as they’re power transformers and such, but we can still use them. We should build small boutiques and selected restaurants, all anchored by a large, outdoor fruit and vegetable market. These would all be attached to the existing walls of the power buildings.

The feel of the place would be one of ‘healthy living’. You go there for the health related shops, to enjoy the green space and nature, to run in the track (the brown thing) or just hang around in one of the coffee shops. You can take your kids out for a walk and to enjoy the playground in the park. The point isn’t that this stuff can’t be found in Kuwait. Places like this exist, but they’re too far away. I want people to walk to here. There’s lots of parking, anyway, but I still want people to walk.

The co-op would make money renting out the space and the residents will enjoy the new ‘third place’ in their lives instead of staring at the dusty nothing that was there before. What would it take to make something like this happen? The land is already zoned for commercial use (I think). Who owns the land?

Edit- I took a few photos of the site:

Click to embiggen



  1. For all the architects, I haven’t really ‘designed’ the space, I just did a quick mock-up to illustrate the point… So don’t critique the design 😛

  2. Kuwait has lots of dead spaces and huge corners that are used for parking or dumping stuff.

  3. I Agree.. and mostly within Kuwait City… Hopefully this will be fixed 🙂

  4. Hi Barrak,
    Thank you for this. This may be off topic but I thought you’re probably the appropriate person to ask. Can you blog about the street system in Qortuba with ‘Streets’ شارع and ‘Avenues’ جادة. Aside from the four named streets, all streets in Qortuba are numbered. I know the streets and can perhaps figure out the logic they’re based on in numbering and so. But, I can’t figure out the avenues, where they begin and where they end, whether there are overlaps, and whether there are addresses on numbered streets but no avenues. Please provide some of your urban planning wisdom. Many thanks.

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