Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | February 28, 2010


Why are Arab architects and engineers obsessed with fences? There’s always a big fence surrounding every building, usually around the site perimeter. I can understand a fence around a prison, maybe a zoo, but why everywhere? What’s the point?

It don’t think security is a valid reason. It has a false sense of security, sure, but anyone can jump a fence if they want to. The reason why i’m so against the idea is that, by definition, it keeps people out. This limits the usable public space to the leftovers. There’s no gray area, no semi-public space. Urban flow is cut off because there’s always a clear and physical barrier between the areas where you are allowed to be and those where you are not welcome. Architects start getting lazy and design buildings as isolated and independent islands without caring about integrating the project into the existing urban fabric. They can’t, anyway, because the neighbor has a fence.

I bet this is all a big fence-maker conspiracy to sell more products.



  1. I agree.

  2. Like dogs or other mammals, Arab architects are marking territory on behalf of their client, but with brick and mortar as opposed to urine. Yes, we havn’t evolved much there 🙂

  3. LoL … funny to read this post since i was discussing this in a meeting last week … we are working on a theatre project (can’t say more) and I am trying to convince the client to lose the fence or blend it with the landscape that surrounds the building …

  4. لأن العرب لا يعرفون حدودهم…..لابد من أن تستوقف تجاوزاتهم بسور أو حاجز

  5. thats true..even the puplic spaces are fenced-the puplic gardens and parks- which make no sence..

  6. I don’t think the problem is with the fences themselves, it is more the notion of how they are used. Most gardens/parks, even abroad, have fences and gates but they are not glorified as fortress and barriers as is the case in Kuwait. In Kuwait, it is becomes much greater than a threshold (which I believe it is in non-Arab places and it becomes the semi-public/semi-private) and becomes a place to exert non-exsistant power (ie “i can let you”). Their design is a bigger concern than their presence.

  7. D, you make some valid points, but I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Most of the gardens/parks abroad that have a fence are remnants of aristocracy and segregation. I doubt that you’ll find any new and well designed public space that has a big fence all around it. It serves no real purpose. You can have elements that block a view (street embankments, etc) or act to envelop a space, but not a dedicated ‘fence’ to keep people in or out.

    I guess what i’m saying is that I agree with you, in that modern designers find less obtrusive ways of containment and urban flow without the overt power message that a gated fence projects. What I hate about the overuse of fences in Kuwait is that it has become sort of the default design option. You HAVE to have a fence, even if they can’t really articulate why.

  8. I don’t believe in creating cities and “fencing” all its buildings … you lose the “ensejaam” and flow and you end up with a big land with many individual projects…

  9. Yeah, what’s up with fences everywhere?! I wish those things were regular fences most of the time they “fence” the are with WALLS! Yes many many beige walls! Everywhere! I hate them!:) Ahhh I feel better now that I let out all my anger;p

  10. they fence the *AREA:p

  11. I’m not a fan of fences, I like creative walls, with nicely designed lighting but not for public places, their should be shrubbery and bushes but not fences.

  12. The only time that I’ve found fences to make any sense it with homes (The whole culture of privacy in the Near and some far Eastern cultures) and areas designated to trap their inhabits (Schools, Universities, Ministries…and and prisons).

  13. q8travelbud, ensejam is exactly right. Fences stop spaces from flowing into each other. Literally.

    Marzouq, yeah most of them seem to be designed without any thought. It’s the face of your building, for gods sake, put some thought into it!

    BlackBarook, that’s true, but i’d argue that for homes, we really don’t need fences either. Your outer wall becomes the fence, and you create outdoor spaces inside. A courtyard. Like how our ancestors lived. It’s really the best way, if you think about it.

  14. Strange. I thought the outer walls were a kind of fence…

  15. Our people don’t respect space. They would end up parking in your building if there isn’t something physically stopping them.

  16. I brought up this blog post with a friend of mine and she brought up an interesting point.

    While we were talking about your post, we drove (Or at least I did) past the Grand Mosque and we mused about the pros and cons of walling off places of worship.

    I stated that areas of prayer should not be walled or fenced off from the area around it. The mosque, church or temple need to interact with the people and buildings around it.

    My friend on the other hand, stated that fencing off the place of worship would signify to people that they are not entering a sacred place; a place far removed from our mortal existence.

    What are your views?

  17. I think you meant ‘now’ instead of ‘not’.

    Well, the distinction between you two is one of design. You first have to define what it is that a fence does, and then look to see if there are other ways to serve that purpose using a different design element instead of a dumb fence.

    In other words, is there a way to direct traffic into the building, while still maintaining security, through landscape elements?

    Is there a way to create a transition from the ‘physical realm’ to the ‘sacred place’ of the mosque without having to pass through a gated fence?

    The answer is of course you can. That’s design; Looking for the best solution to a given problem. What’s happening now is that so many ‘designers’ are simply avoiding the question by saying ‘FENCE!’ to every project. It’s lazy and ends up ruining the flow of our urban space.

  18. I’m not too sure, but I would think it’s linked to old traditions and/or religious beliefs in that homes need their privacy

    I agree, I HATE most fences. I love how in the west they just have well kept pretty green lawns

  19. […] demolishing all the fences that surround public parks. I’ve asked for this a couple of times (here and here) and it seems their reason for removing them was mainly to stop people abusing the parks […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: