Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | January 9, 2011

Qortuba Opportunity

There’s an strange place in Qortuba, Block 1. It’s a sort of dead space that came as a result of awkward road planning. The space is mostly asphalt now, and has a small two level shopping block and a mosque. The houses adjacent to it have started to use the land as a sort of private, gated gardens and parking.

I think there’s huge potential here. The area is very dense, probably one of the densest residential neighborhoods in Kuwait. Most of the families living there have several generations living in one house. What if we develop this land into a dense, mixed use development?

I can imagine something with massive underground parking and a porous, outdoor ground level that has tree-lined pathways, shops, gardens, a daycare center, etc. The entire ground level is walkable. There are no streets for cars. You enter either by walking to it or driving underneath it to park your car. It would be sort of an old school Kuwaiti neighborhood, with narrow streets and high (three level) buildings for shade.

The idea is that the second and third floors would be apartments for young Kuwaitis. It would provide such a different lifestyle to the one that most are used. You can simply walk out of the house and meander through the lively scene underneath you, go for a walk through the gardens, walk to the mosque, drop your kids off in the daycare center and maybe go to a restaurant owned by a Kuwaiti chef next to the bookshop. There is such a huge demand for these kinds of spaces where young Kuwaitis can feel free to live and work in safe environments that are close to their families.

The image above is a quick 5 minute sketch I made in Photoshop (content aware fill is magic!) and is trying to show the density of the development, so ignore the ‘design’. It’s a huge space, almost 40,000m2. There are so many win-win opportunities in Kuwait, and this is a great example of one of them. There’s demand, the land is there, so why not do it?



  1. 1. Have I ever told you how awesome you are for doing this?
    2. Is there any reason behind why certain districts are more crowded (Jabriya, Surra) as opposed to Omaryia? I thought that the more crowded ones were older while the newer ones are more open. However driving/walking through South Surra it seems to be as crowded as it’s northern sibling.

    • 1. Thanks!
      2. I can think of three, but first we have to define what crowded means. I think it means crowded streets, not people (because density itself is actually a good thing, but cars are not). So what causes crowded streets?

      a: Some areas have far more occurrences of ‘farz’, the splitting of a plot of land into two smaller ones. Qortuba is notorious for this. It used to be really pleasant, but suddenly everyone started building two small houses on one normal plot. The number of cars on the (already narrow) street basically doubled.

      b: The ‘irtidaad’ is bigger in some areas. This means that cars can park on it and still leave ample room for people to walk. That means the street is dedicated to cars and you won’t have people forced to walk there, so the street feels subconsciously wider. In places where theres only enough room for a car to squeeze in, there’s no room to walk, so people walk on the street. That makes it seem the street is ‘shared space’, so it feels smaller.

      c: The older houses in older neighborhoods usually had parking inside the house, or at least enough so that they don’t have to double park outside.

      A great example of all this is going to be clear in alShuhada in a few years. The land was divided amongst the royal family and was basically split in two. One half decided to make the plots of land really small, while the others are bigger. In five years they are going to look so different because of that decision, and the land value will reflect that, too.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by toot, Barrak Al-Babtain. Barrak Al-Babtain said: Qortuba Opportunity: A mixed-use development for young Kuwaiti families […]

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