Al-Hamra tower is an iconic building and the tallest sculpted tower in the world. It will be, once completed, the most prominent feature of Kuwait city’s skyline.
This tower would be a touristic feature to Kuwait and an asset to the country’s economy. We would find people flying to Kuwait to snap a few shots of its curved structure, dine in its sky restaurant, which will be the highest in the world, and shop in its mall. Despite that, this project is an urban error.
Let’s examine its location; The tower is built on a corner of a low density intersection in downtown Kuwait City. This location hosted two movie theaters, one of which was AlHamra Cinema, hence the name of the development. This is an extension to what once was a residential area of AlMaqwaa AlSharqi (I hope that’s the correct spelling) which housed small 2 story houses.
This is one of the biggest weakness of the location, since that immediate neighboring structures are either old houses left for ruins, which are rented out to low income expatriates, or often cheap very commercialized residential towers that have sprawled across the neighborhood, housing a slightly more affluent expatriates and some companies.
The front and most luxurious entrance to the development is in fact stuck next to, not one, but two old ruined houses that are full of labour expatriates, which is one of the biggest visual contrasts I’ve seen ever. That entrance is designed to receive the most distinguished, prestige businessmen/women, executives and high profile guests from all over the world. They are greeted with ruins on the entrance of the most expensive piece of property in the commercial market of Kuwait.
The other side of this development is what should be the most luxurious mall in Kuwait is also greeted with a famous Indian cuisine restaurant and the diners use its common areas between the two structures as a parking space when they visit.
The intersection is a massive underdevelopment for a project of this scale. Traffic will be a nightmare to say the least. No services road is built to serve this development, which I believe will be of importance to maintain this project. The biggest draw back though is the parking building which is on the backside which simply lacks proper access to the main roads and it’s not very clear if that parking is sufficient for the development users once in operation.
To me the most shameful aspect of the location is the complete lack of a real public plaza for tourist to come, snap photos, marvel at the might of the structure and appreciate the architecture. The left over space between the tower/mall and the intersection simply is that, left over, nothing more. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this tower can only be seen in its glory from a far distance. That perhaps is one of the perks of its sheer bulkiness. To me the tower is too big honestly, but that’s only me. Isn’t it a shame that no one can simply stand in front of AlHamra and gaze at it in full and be able to take pictures of it. I say this in comparison to Burj Khaleefa in Dubai.
The Burj in Dubai is the tallest tower in the world, which is designed by the famous architecture practice SOM, which also happen to be the designers of AlHamra tower. Over in Dubai, the planner realize the opportunity this massive structure offer for tourism, thus they created one of the most dynamic water fountain in an artificial lake just in front of the main entrance to the tower opposite to the largest mall in the world. As fake as it sounds, the planning works brilliantly, yet sky scrapers are fake if not designed out of necessity. People gather around the lake and admire the not so impressive tower in comparison to the AlHamra. This is a shame.
Over all, I am happy that they are building it. I am however disappointed that this would end up being a waste of money when it comes to bystanders and regular people passing by. Tourists won’t be happy when they come in masses, They simply won’t be able to take pictures of themselves with this tower easily, I fail to see a drop off point for tourist buses.
Kuwait needs to wake up from its coma and realize each action would have a reaction, in this case a massive urban chaos in the city in reaction to this massive building.