Category Archives: Other

Jaber Bridge

By | Other | 24 Comments

Without traffic the bridge will save about 25 minutes from the journey. Let’s say someone lives in Mishref and wants to work in Silk City. In order for that person to drive to the entrance of the bridge they have to go through the traffic leading to it, which is through Shuwaikh Industrial and the port. This area is already congested and will be more so with everyone passing through to get to the bridge. The same will be true on the Silk City side. In the end, I will be very surprised if the total journey is less that it would be to take the longer detour around the city and the bay.

It might seem like the bridge will save about 20 minutes or so from every journey but in order to do so there will be more traffic in the city as a result, having paid KD20 million for each kilometer. The project will be a national disaster. We should not wait for that to happen and we must scrap the project entirely. It is an ecological nightmare, a fiscal disaster and will add to the existing traffic gridlock.

A more fiscally prudent and ecologically sensitive solution would be to just use the existing road to Silk City/Subbiya. What’s wrong with that? We don’t ruin Kuwait Bay, we don’t burn KD700 million and we don’t increase the traffic problems in our already crippled city. In fact, we can use the land there to extend the city further. The bridge would slow this down.

There are far better uses for the money than this terrible idea of the bridge. I understand that it’s an easy way for some to loot public funds, but i’d rather we find a way without leaving us with a 35 km monster for us to forever deal with.

مربعات

By | Other | No Comments

أنا بدأت أشعر بالقلق إزاء وجود اتجاه سيء للغاية في تصميم المنازل الكويتية . عملاء يطلبون نظرة و أسلوب “عصري” دون فهم حقيقي لما هم يطلبون. لمعظم الناس الطراز العصري يعني الصندوق البارد، ذو زوايا حادة مع الكثير من النوافذ المستطيلة والأثاث باهظة الثمن. الحداثة ليست طراز، وانها عملية. يمكنك تغيير التثليج على الكعكة، لكنها لازالت شوكولاته في الداخل.

الشيء الأكثر أهمية، وخاصة بالنسبة للبنية السكنية، هو أن الفضاء يحسن نوعية الحياة للسكان بقدر ما يمكن في حدود الميزانية المتاحة.

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عملاء يطالبون أنهم لا يعيشون في صناديق. عندما كنت أطلب منهم التعبير عن السبب في ذلك، فإنها عادة ما تنتهي بحجة أن الجميع يبنون مربعات مملة،  غير “خلاقة”. وأعتقد أن انهم قلقون من أن الشكل الممل يمثل سكن ممل. من يهتم؟ لماذا يجب أن يكون  الشكل الخارجي الهدف الأساسي من التصميم؟ المنازل ليست شيئا ينبغي أن ينظر إلي. أنت تعيش فيها.

ما أحاول أن أؤكد عليه بقدر ما يمكنني هو أن نوعية الحياة هي العنصر الأكثر أهمية، وليس عدد الغرف أو المساحة. تلك هي مجرد وسائل للمطورين العقاريين لبيع المنازل، وهو في الحقيقة لا معنى له في الواقع. ما هي الهدف في وجود المزيد من الغرف أكثر مما تحتاج إليه إذا كانت كلها مواجهة للجيران، مضاءة بشكل سيئ، وأثاث غير مناسب أليس كذلك؟ لماذا يكون لمنازل بهو كبير في الإستقبال إذا كنت في نهاية المطاف من الذين يعيشون في الطابق العلوي معظم حياتك ونادرا ما تنفق أي وقت في الطابق الأرضي؟ تكلفة الفرصة البديلة من المساحات المهدرة هائلة. الناس فقط لا يستطيعون تصور بديل، والفاشل في نهاية المطاف هو المعماري لأنه من واجبنا أن نساعد في توضيح ما يمكن أن يكون، وينبغي القيام به.

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فيلا سافوي

فيلا سافوي Savoye هي  من المفترض أن تعتبر تحفة للحداثة. وقد صممت من قبل المعماري  لي كوربوزييه، رحبوا بها واعتبروها رمزا للحداثة واسلوبا عالميا لأنها كانت جديدة ومختلفة بالكامل. يمكن وضعها في أي مكان في العالم. بأنها آلة للحياة. في الحقيقة، كانت في الواقع كارثة. وطالب المعماري أن يكون السقف مسطح، لانه كان يعتقد ان الأسقف الحديثة ينبغي أن تكون مسطحة. تسربت الماء من السقف. وقد طالب المعماري أن لا تضاف  أي قطعةأثاث إلى تصميمه. هناك العديد من الأفكار الجيدة التي يتعين اتخاذها من فيلا سافوي (كيف تم رفع المنزل طابق واحد على أعمدة لاطلاق سراحه من الأرض)، وتفاعل رائع بين المساحات والفناء في الطابق الأول. كانت المشكلة في غرور المعماري التي سمح للطراز ليحل محل التطبيق العملي. نتيجة لهذا، فقد اكتسبت الحداثة  بأنها غير عملية. في الكويت، أرى الشيء نفسه مع الناس, بناء البيوت ذات النوافذ العملاقة التي تواجه الشمس. طبعا هم ليست عملية، ولكن مهلا، يبدو المنزل عصري وبالتالي فإن الناس الذين يعيشون فيه يجب أن يكونوا عصريين.

 

Bike Lanes

By | Other | 3 Comments
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/14815458 w=500&h=281]

I was surprised to learn that Kuwait doesn’t have a single bike lane. It’s not really that hard to implement if there’s enough density to justify it. The idea is that it be used both for recreation and potentially for commuting. There are a few places in Kuwait where a bike lane can work. Once the metro is in place, I can see a lot more places that can benefit from a bike lane, but for now I think the waterfront, probably around Marina Mall heading south, is the best option for now.

Kuwait 2030: Traffic Sanity

By | Other | 5 Comments

For males in Kuwait, traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death (after heart disease) with about 40 deaths per 100,000. For women, the number is much less at 8 deaths per 100,000. Something is very wrong with that number and it scares the hell out of me. Driving in Kuwait is more dangerous than the risk of cancer. Reducing traffic accidents would have the same effect as curing cancer. Imagine that.

Traffic Sanity:

If we can bring the risk of death for males down to the more normal level of women we would save the lives of 300 people every year, people you know and love. Sadly, everyone knows a dear friend or a family member that died in an accident. These are mostly preventable deaths and it’s a disgrace that this is not our highest national priority. There are an average of 453 traffic fatalities per year.

There have been some good steps taken to get us on the right track. The National Traffic and Transport Sector Strategy 2009-2019 for Kuwait’ has some good ideas about smart data collection. They propose reforming the way police officers collect accident data so that the information is standardized and includes GPS coordinates of the events. That way they can create a detailed map with a historical record of where accidents frequently occurred so they can identify ‘black spots’ which are high frequency accident areas. Those are good ideas, but I don’t think they’re radical enough. We need more. What do I want by 2030?

  • Traffic related deaths to plummet from 400 per year to 100.
  • Foolproof anti-speeding system
  • Web based, real time traffic map
  • The ability to choose a car free lifestyle

I think these are all realistic and achievable goals and the technology exists today to make it happen. The steps we need to take are somewhat drastic but necessary to solve the problem:

  1. Blanket the country with average speed cameras.
  2. Link the data collected by the cameras with an open-source traffic map API so cars, phones and computers have access to a real time map showing traffic on all major roads.
  3. Since average speed cameras use infra red, you wouldn’t know when you were caught speeding. No flash. To avoid this, cars would be linked with the mobile phone number of the owner and receives an SMS every time they get caught.
  4. Traffic police to install cameras on their dashboard to record what goes on and any harassment of police officers that might occur. Yes, it happens.
  5. Implement NIRIS, which is the system I mentioned about accident data collection reform.
  6. Sticker prices of cars must include the cost of petrol that the car would consume in a year.
  7. Cameras everywhere and especially at ‘black spots’ and highway overpasses to stop dangerous driving such as overtaking on one lane flyovers. I’m sure there’s a way to automate the system so that dangerous driving could be flagged and a police car alerted to the situation.
  8. Very slow driving should be penalized as heavily as speeding and can result in revoked licenses.
  9. A congestion pricing system for traffic going in and out of the city during rush hour. If it costs 1KD every time you go into or out of Kuwait City during rush hour, you’d see a lot more people using public transportation. See Salik in Dubai.
  10. Gradually and loudly reduce and eventually abolish the fuel subsidy. This will make it more expensive to drive and incentivize people to use public transport. The revenue generated will be given back to Kuwaitis as a rebate. If you drive less, you still get the same amount as someone that drives a lot more, so you might profit.
  11. Invest a lot more in public transport infrastructure; buses, bus stops with real time maps of where the buses are (it’s so easy to do once you have the data), the metro, real bus lanes, better pedestrian safety. Make it easy for people to live without a car and they will drive less.

The situation today allows people to speed without consequence. Everyone knows how to game the system. We have to make it so hard to avoid punishment that it becomes practically impossible to get away with speeding. Current camera technology can allow us to do that. We can stop speeding on major roads and that’s generally considered the main cause of fatal accidents. Awareness and marketing campaigns are useless and do nothing but waste time and money. We need strict rule enforcement and penalties. Nothing else works.

Our ultimate goal should be to reduce fatalities, ease traffic and lower pollution. A comprehensive plan should include investing in alternative modes of transportation as well as better driver education during licensing and strict penalties and enforcement. In the end this has to be a serious national project. I want to constantly see giant numbers on buildings and newspapers showing the average number of deaths in the past year and to show that number go down every week. This is way more important that petty political squabbles and insignificant pay rises. We can sort of cure cancer.

Collaborative Consumption

By | Other | 3 Comments
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQa3kUJPEko&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

A beautiful presentation by Rachel Botsman about the rise of collaborative consumption and how technology is bringing us back to the ideas of sharing and trust. She covers the same ground as Clay Shirky and others but the presentation is too good to pass up. I can see this working in Kuwait. Maybe it exists already, but I can see it working, trading DVDs, fashion accessories, old phones, etc. The bigger point is that these transactions are happening purely based on trust, even though you don’t know the other person at all. It’s really impressive how we create a communal credit score when people review your actions and through that you can get a feel of a persons reputation and reliability and have all this just emerge naturally.

Average Speed Camera Network

By | Other, Urban | 7 Comments

It seems that the pilot project in First Ring Road (seen in the image below) was successful. I’m sure you’ve all seen the cameras that apparently don’t do anything. They are average speed cameras. Don’t worry, they haven’t been issuing fines yet (though they will starting Feb 2011). We’ve mentioned this before in our Traffic page. The idea is fairly simple; Two cameras photograph license plates and since the distance between the cameras is known, they can calculate the average speed of the cars.

Photo by Mark, 248am.com

What this means is that drivers no longer have an incentive to slow down before a camera, which is a major source of accidents. Even if you do slow down and speed up after passing one of them, it will still fine you if you average above the speed limit. You can’t avoid it.

It works by scanning the license plate of every car that passes through it. That’s why they changed the license plates recently to allow for better recognition. It uses an infra-red camera to photograph the car, so it works at night without a flash. The yellow thing is the infra-red light emitter. They have a state of the art data center built for this and they’re going to be using it for national security purposes and traffic monitoring as well.

Once the system is implemented it is possible to use the information to map real time traffic patterns. An interactive traffic map can be automatically generated and updated in real time. This would be published online so people can plan their routes. It’s possible that it could be integrated into car navigation systems so your route would be automatically adjusted based on traffic patterns. Software could be developed to create web and iPhone apps that take advantage of open source traffic information.

Photo by Mark, 248am.com

The only way we can reduce fatal car crashes is by making it impossible to get away with speeding. The current system is pathetically easy to fool. No system is foolproof, and neither is this one (you can install a reflective film over your license plate that messes with the recognition system), but it is far better than what we have now. I’m all for this, on all major roads in Kuwait.

What if?

By | Other | 15 Comments

What would happen if it costs 18KD to fill up your SUV? Would your life be ruined? I don’t think so. What will happen is that you will adjust your lifestyle to meet this new reality. You might reconsider buying a new SUV, and maybe get a car with better mileage. People might decide not to buy a car at all, and you’ll find that there’s less traffic on the street because people who can’t afford to drive are now willing to carpool and use public transportation. 18KD is a reasonable amount to pay because that’s the true price of the petrol.

What if you had to pay over 1000KD every year to pay for you electricity consumption? What would change? You would obviously think twice about leaving the air conditioning on all the time even when no one is home. You will think about how much a house consumes energy before buying it. You decide that maybe a small house with a bigger garden makes more sense than a three floor mansion. We might find that we don’t have blackouts anymore. The KOC will be able to sell more oil instead of burning it to make more electricity for Kuwait.

What if water cost you 50KD a month? Will you stand idly by as your driver sprays you car with a hose to clean it, when a sponge will do the same thing for a fraction of the water? Will you decide against a lawn and maybe plant more appropriate landscaping for the region?

If resources are priced according to their true value, without subsidies or manipulation, then human behavior will revert to a mode of living that is both efficient and ‘sustainable’. People will never change because of morality and the desire to feel ‘green’. That’s bullshit. The only way we can ever change is if it hurts us in our wallets if we don’t change. We’re not pricing in what’s called the negative externalities; the unpriced cost of traffic, pollution, blackouts and wasted finite resources.

This might seem politically impossible in Kuwait, but what if there was a way to make it work? What if all the savings and revenue generated was given back to Kuwaitis as a form of energy rebate? That way we can reward good behavior while we punish wasteful people by punching them with the invisible hand. We can have our cake and eat it too.

Twitter

By | Other | No Comments

re:kuwait is now on Twitter.

You can follow me by clicking on the link in the sidebar. The most recent tweets will be on there as well. I’m not sure how it will be used eventually, but it seems like a great tool for quick thoughts and updates. I tried to do this with Google Buzz, but that service ended up being a complete failure. I’ll see if I can get Amenah and Jassem to have their Twitter thing up as well.

Also, we’ve added an email signup so people can get new posts directly. That seems like a great way to keep in touch, so I hope you sign up if you find any of the stuff we write mildly interesting. Thanks a lot and we really appreciate it.

Gray Water Ablution

By | Other | 5 Comments

The topic of tonight’s episode of the brilliant MBC show ‘khawatir’ was about water conservation. They showed how much water was being wasted during ablution. Changing attitudes towards consumption would be great, but to push this even further we need to reuse the water that is collected through the drain.

This waste water is pretty much clean greywater that we can use directly for irrigation. Here’s a study of testing done on ablution wastewater that shows that it can be used safely for irrigation. Under every ablution space there should be a water tank that collects all the water that’s used after ablution. This water is then pumped out at regular intervals to irrigate a garden surrounding the mosque, preferably growing edible plants. This would help reduce the temperature of the space, grow some food and avoid wasting water.

Khaldiya/Adailiya Bridge

By | Education, Other | No Comments

I was recently invited at Kuwait University to see the work of a studio researching ‘sustainability’ and solar design. They were attempting to manipulate microclimates through architecture to create livable and comfortable outdoor spaces from a site they picked around Khaldiya campus. I was glad when I saw one team choose the pedestrian bridge, which we discussed in the previous post, as their site.

The shading device they came up with was a tesselated, triangular, disturbed mesh (which they insisted on calling ‘origami’, even though it has nothing to do with folding). That was a cool idea, as some triangles would face the sun directly, and they made that into a photovoltaic cell. Others, facing north, would be open to the sky. That was good enough as an idea, but they inexplicably added mini-wind turbines which edged the design too close to being a parody for my liking. Just stick with one great idea and really develop it, and they came close with their roof structure. It was a very unique project and well worth seeing. Good job, guys.

They also added a cafe on the on the Adailiya side of the street and extended the shading device to cover that and the nearby parking spaces. I forgot there was a bus stop on the Khaldiya side, and that’s another reason to think that this can really be a great starting point for inciting pedestrian activity. I was glad that the team tried to do that in their project, but it could have been taken even further, maybe expanding the site to include the whole ‘mamsha’ as part of their design, turning into a larger scale ‘landscape urbanism’ project, with the focus of the project being a site aimed to educate people on the health benefits of exercise and proving that you can create architecture and landscapes that are comfortable even during the worst summer heat.

In general, I felt that most of the students unfortunately started the project with a defeatist mentality, thinking that there isn’t much you can do to manipulate the microclimate other than erecting some shading devices and calling it a day. I personally think that shading alone is not enough in the summer. You need to have a holistic design that includes evaporative cooling techniques, wind manipulation (pressure studies), vegetation and albedo/material analysis, but I couldn’t find a project that went beyond superficial shading devices as their solution to the heat problem. That’s not enough, but I was glad to know that they’re being taught the fundamentals of the subject. I was just hoping for a better final product at the end of the day.