Kuwait is planning on investing in culture and the government has announced that it will be building eight new theaters as part of its economic development plan. It is great news indeed. Kuwait lacks good, modern, and sophisticated theaters. The government also announced that it allocated about 50,000 square meters to build an Opera House.
As controversial as that might be, it should be great news as well for anyone who loves culture, music, and especially for architects. I am hopeful that this Opera house would do something Kuwait in desperate need of, a starchitect building.
In recent years, the Kuwaiti landscape and skyline has changed dramatically. Massive construction took place and international firms like SOM, HOK, KPF, among others have designed and built projects here but not one the so-called ‘starchitects’ has ever designed anything for Kuwait that has materialized.
There is a need for good architecture in Kuwait for both the professionals and students alike. An experience that only a master architect like, Steven Holl, Tadoa Ando and Zaha Hadid could bring to our city. Those architects have earned their name and reputation because they defy the norms, undertake a design process that is research and analytically driven, and are trend setting, if I may dare to call it that. Big firms hardly do that anymore, they tend to deliver great works of architecture, but is short of thought provoking and hardly inspirational.
Kuwait managed to get back to its infancy in architecture, after being a leading country in the region in 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Qatar, for example, have now more buildings of famous architects than Kuwait does.
Kuwait University has an architectural program, and the students need something to inspire them. They, as well as other local professionals, are infants in architecture ,and like infants, we need to observe, imitate, and learn the process all over again. The only way I can imagine that can happen is, either we travel around the world looking into examples, which we can do, or have some examples built here.
I don’t care if a starchitect does a bad job at designing the Opera House, as long as it is design by someone famous with credible work. Someone who is conceptual, analytical, formal, and theoretical. We need a built example, even if it ends up badly, cause that might be the lesson to learn. If we are investing in culture we should invest in its totality, and architecture is the finest of all cultural matters, subjects and desciplines