Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | April 29, 2010

Kuwait City Transect

A transect shows a sequence of progression through the increasing density of a city from the rural areas to the urban core. Transportation, landscape and ecology, buildings, setbacks and all the details of life should vary across the transect.

“The importance of transect planning is particularly seen as a contrast to modern Euclidean zoning and suburban development. In these patterns, large areas are dedicated to a single purpose, such as housing, offices, shopping, and they can only be accessed via major roads. The transect, by contrast, decreases the necessity for long-distance travel by any means.”

-Wikipedia

The idea is used as a guideline to zoning laws to create urban environments that will ultimately be greater than the sum of its parts. The gradual increase in density is preferable to sudden changes, but that’s not really the point. What matters most is that there is a huge variety of spaces and building types all within the same area.

Kuwait City is obviously too large an area to plan it successfully as one large transect, but it’s interesting to note that there are only three different levels of density in Kuwait:

There is the desert, which is punctured by incredibly large buildings that seem illogical and out of place. Then there is the endless matte of suburban (yet highly dense) housing zone. The third and highest level of density is also weird; it is inconsistently dense, meaning there are huge towers all around, but there are lots of empty plots of land everywhere as well.

It would have been much better had we followed a more consistent and gradual increase of density for Kuwait City, but we have to work with what we have. There is an opportunity to follow a similar idea of varied density within the residential areas themselves. This is something that I mentioned in my Pecha Kucha presentation a few months back. (By the way, the next event is on 5/5, which is this Wednesday. Be there!).

The idea is to create a transect within each residential neighborhood, creating varied spaces in the same walkable area. Here are some images that were used in the presentation:

Most residential neighborhoods now aren’t really neighborhoods. They are simply a large sprawl of detached homes that are only accessible by car and are not properly situated in their urban context. You have no place to walk to and everything looks the same.

The large difference in the range of densities allows for a wide variety of building types. This means that there are small detached homes, large dense homes (which is the only type that exists now) and highly dense towers. The increased density will allow for more people to live in the same area, but will create more open, public space which will be better utilized because there are more people and they now have stuff to do and places to walk to. Now if only we could get a transit network to link the urban core to the rest of the city…


Responses

  1. Barrak, to achieve your point I think we need to demolish some of the existing structures and adding some more? I would like you to re-explain your point, since its a bit confusing to me

  2. Well, you only really need to demolish the structures in the middle, usually the jam3iya. That would become the core of the neighborhood, the transit stop, the dense area where you’d have mixed use development (either towers, or really dense buildings that will have apartments, lofts, shops, entertainment, etc).

    But you’re right, in existing situations, we can only increase density, you can’t really reduce it without demolishing; but if you do increase the density in the center, then you are reducing FUTURE uniform density, meaning that by acting now and creating housing opportunities for people in the dense core, they won’t feel obligated to live in a new floor at their parents house.


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