I admit that the following exercise is almost comically biased, but I think it serves well to illustrate the point i’m always trying to make. People have become anonymous within their own neighborhoods and mosques have become the only place where a strong sense of community persists. What can we do to change that? Here is what I feel Kuwait could and should be like. Let’s follow two fictional people, Dalal and Faisal, through a Kuwaiti residential neighborhood as it is and how I imagine it could be:
Bad urbanism affects not only the way our neighborhoods look, but it also deeply affects our sociological and environmental well being. We devolved as a society because we stopped caring about the design of our neighborhoods and accepted our built environment as just the way things are. This brutal ignorance has to stop. So what can we do?
- We need to give urban designers and landscape architects a much stronger voice in planning neighborhoods and communities. The people in charge of planning Kuwait City are bored engineers. They might mean well, but they simply don’t have the tools required to understand the needs of life beyond what they already know. We need to replace them with energetic and knowledgeable young urban designers and give them the authority and responsibility to reshape our city.
- To do that we need to graduate lots of urban designers. This profession is different (but related) to architecture. There is a drought of urban design talent in Kuwait and we need to remedy this as soon as possible.
- All residential neighborhoods require a nearby third place to give people someplace to walk to. People who gather there are members of the community, not random people from far away that you find in a mall.
- Walkable communities need to be anchored by a mosque, which would act as the catalyst of pedestrian urban development. A park/mosque/library hybrid should be attempted.
- Trees, trees, trees. Shade and fresh air.
- Sidewalks are more important than street width. If the roads aren’t safe, kids won’t play, and if they do it’s dangerous.
You can find more ideas here. Kuwait has so much potential to be a great place to live. Let’s not waste our resources on mega-projects that benefit a few people while neglecting the immediate environment where we spend most of our time. We deserve better and we should do our best to make it better for ourselves and for our children.