Kuwait is experiencing a very unique period in terms of urban development; this is a period that is very reminiscent of the situation experienced in Spain in the 60s. It is a time of change in which urban chaos is expected. There happens to be many similarities between the two societies, similarities such as extremely conservative religious beliefs co-existing with highly educated young people that have high regard to foreign culture.
A few decades ago the characteristic of Kuwait’s city was a very low-density residential urban fabric with randomly appearing industrial zones. Today the central core of the city is a combination of empty plots and dilapidated buildings turned into substandard housing, interspersed with huge office towers. As a result of this the current trend now is to attempt to densify the city in efforts to create a booming vision of Kuwait’s urban development. It is in this in this process where we see the similarities between Spain in the 60s and Kuwait in 2015.
New high density housing blocks emerged in the residential areas of Kuwait in response to the demands of homeowners with high purchasing power and this is another sign of the forecoming social changes; In these modernized residential blocks maintaining a traditional way of living became key in defining the characteristics of these homes. AGi architects strove to develop this concept in projects such as Green Core, Tamdeen Square Residences and Wafra Living.
Similar strategies are seen in the design of the residential complex Les Escales Park, built in Barcelona in 1967, by architect Josep Lluis Sert. In the design approach of these buildings the scale changes in the facade, the utilization of the buildings core for community spaces and the use of modern raw material, such as exposed concrete in contrast with traditional Mediterranean finishes, are used to express the building.
In our high density housing projects, we are often faced with the traditional requirements for the kitchens, living rooms, dining room, and staff quarters. The configuration of the whole is done in a manner to create new public spaces that are influenced by the needs of the 21st century society. As for the outer shell of our buildings, the implementation of a continuous skin interactswith the buildings and the usersserving as a backdrop to these spaces.
In Spain of 60s, homes such as those of Edificio Girasol, by Jose Antonio Coderch, were perceived as luxury collective housing with a classic organization amongst staff and user. The designs of these homes were delivered with high regard towards privacy. In Edificio Girasol the organic shaped brick façade brought together a very traditional yet contemporary expression of architecture similarly to our mixed use of traditional and modern materials.
Drawing these two similarities between Spain and Kuwait is important as we constantly deal with urban and Real Estate developers, and we hope these experiences will help to improve the results of Kuwait’s future and current architectural growth.