• Urban Memory and Preservation in Kuwait: A Case Study of Souk Al Wataniya

    Edward Nilsson (see profile)
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    The Politics of Memory, Territory, and Heritage in Iraq and Syria
    Conf. Org.:
    Society of Architectural Historians
    Conf. Loc.:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Conf. Date:
    June 7-11, 2017
    Urban memory, architecture history, Preservation
    Permanent URL:
    The demolition of the old Kuwait city along the lines of a new master plan for transportation and land use transformed the meaning of urban space in Kuwait between the late 1940s and the 1980s. Much of this transformation was informed through the ideas of important international designers who worked with local firms to produce local examples of universal modernist architecture. Today rising land values in downtown Kuwait city have caused shifts from residential to commercial usage, at times resulting in further demolition. Forty years after their construction many modern structures simply deteriorate or are replaced with high-rise structures. This situation has spurred the architectural preservation community to enhance research and to preserve memory images of the city's historical past, both through the low-rise traditional buildings of the early 20th century and in the mid to late 20th-century modernization. In their book 'Modern Architecture Kuwait 1949-1989', Fabbri, Saragoca, and Camacho pose the question; "How was architecture practiced in the absence of historical heritage, major local architectural references...or a strong urban footprint?" Among the planners, Alison and Peter Smithson, who came to Kuwait in 1968, advocated for buildings that could help define a national identity that would differentiate Kuwait from other Arab cities while combining Arab urban tradition and contemporary design. This paper aims to show how features of traditional Arabic architecture were reintroduced into the city center in a case study of a mixed-use structure built during the late 1970s for which the author was the project architect while at The Architects Collaborative (TAC). Damages during the 1990 invasion and subsequently repaired, the project's outward appearance remains a visual link with the medieval residential setting of Kuwait's pre-oil years while also reflecting the economic boom of the 1970s.
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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