Category Archives: albabtain|design

Shamiya House

By | albabtain|design, Architecture | 9 Comments

I’m becoming very encouraged because of a perceptible shift in attitude towards outdoor space in Kuwaiti clients. People are finally understanding the outstanding value that a well designed roof garden or courtyard can provide. Maybe it’s just a reaction to the wonderful weather, but it’s a good sign of progress. A recent project of ours at albabtain|design is an example of this desire for change. A modern home for a small family on an exceedingly small 250m2 plot of land on which the client insisted on privacy with abundant natural light and green spaces.

The design calls for a building that is 8.5m wide and has a narrow private garden on the first floor. The front facade has no discernible ‘windows’ yet the spaces inside are all very well lit through the use of large openings behind a series of louvers and vegetation (the L shaped thing on the above image). This residual space filters the harsh light while also creating privacy.

The client values privacy and natural light and this solution has achieved both through the use of the private garden on the first floor. A small water feature adds to the material palette of the space as well as acting as an ambient noise generator to dampen the sound of the street.

The image above is the view from the master bedroom. A sliding door allows access to the private garden to create a natural ventilation current and to merge indoor/outdoor. The louvers are fixed and allow light to get in, but prevents the neighbor from looking through. The garden space is around 2.5m wide and becomes part of the main living space once the sliding glass doors are opened.

The image above is a transition space before entering the home on the ground floor. We talked about body shock and the need for this kind of entrance before. Most home entrances in Kuwait are simple doors, when in fact an entrance has to be a space. This allows ones body to gradually adjust to the temperature, light, sound and humidity differences between indoor and outdoor without being subjected to body shock. The project is currently under construction.

Kuwait Courtyard House

By | albabtain|design, Architecture, Social | 27 Comments

This is a home I designed as a modern interpretation of a traditional Kuwaiti courtyard house. It is not a stylistic evolution; I am not trying to make the old mud houses look modern and sexy, rather I began by defining what made the old homes work and what would be the best way to design a built environment that reflects the values which defined the traditional architecture.


Front Elevation

Most importantly, the home has to allow for absolute privacy in all interior spaces. There’s no point in having street-facing windows if they’re always going to be shuttered. This means that a functional separation between the public elements of the home and the private areas is critical. It became clear that the best way to achieve this is to simply place a two-level family home on top of a pedestal which would contain all the public and service elements.


All of the rooms would have direct access to a large and private family courtyard. This space would be shielded from the elements by a structural frame which would in time be completely covered by climbing vines which would block direct sunlight and filter the dust out of the air. A waterfall would cool the space through convection heat transfer and evaporative cooling.


View from Bedroom 1

The micro-climate created inside the courtyard would allow for an inviting outdoor space that is comfortable and habitable in all but the most extreme weather conditions. Fallen leaves would be carried by the pool onto another waterfall on the other end of the lap pool (not visible in the image) which would allow for easy collection and disposal. Pests and insects will become somewhat of a concern, but they arrive with birds and butterflies as well.


View from Bedroom 2

The door on the left of the above image leads to the master suite. Access to the courtyard from the rooms can be as large as possible without sacrificing privacy or heat gain. There is corridor access on the other side of the rooms for practical reasons, however I imagine most of the access would be to and from the courtyard side.


View from Bedroom 3

Optimally, children would have constant access to the courtyard, so they play outside and not in their rooms; this allows for the rooms to be smaller and for the children to play with each other and facilitate deeper family bonding. The large sliding glass doors on the left of the above image lead to the main living and kitchen/dining space. The sliding doors, once opened, allow for a seamless connection between the courtyard and the interior living spaces.


View from Bedroom 4

The spiral staircase is a sculptural and structural element which breaks the rigid linearity of the design. The swimming pool is small compared to others (3m x 8m), however it also includes a 16m long lap pool. The large panels can be used as a projection screen for movies and videogames.



This particular design is 400m2 on one street facing east, with 5 bedrooms and a 2 car parking garage. There is no basement. The project is a prototype examining the alternatives to the typical residential offerings in Kuwait. I am currently looking for investors to help me build the house.