Monthly Archives: June 2009

Villa Berkel

By | Architecture | 2 Comments

Villa Berkel is a residence designed by Architectenbureau Paul de Ruiter in Veenendaal, Netherlands. The site is surrounded by a dense wooded area that allows for plenty of privacy, but not enough light to make full use of its secluded nature. We will analyze the project and attempt to explain the design strategies and how to apply these basic ideas in Kuwait. First, a few paragraphs from the architect to explain the project:

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“The woods around Villa Berkel, in Veenendaal, are dark, which means it is important to ensure that as much light can enter the house as possible. However, the more glass is used in a building, the more difficult it is to maintain the dividing line between inside and outside, private and public.”

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“Therefore the building plot is divided into three long strips at right angles to the road. The bottom and southernmost strip is reserved for the garden, the middle strip contains the villa itself and the most northern strip offers access to the house: this is where the drive, parking space and the entrance are located. This layout of the site means that those parts of the house that the residents prefer to keep private are out of sight.

The layout of the site is repeated in the floor plan of the house. This is also divided into three strips over the 30-metre length of the villa. To ensure both openness and liveability, the floor plan is split. The western section, at the street side, contains the more ‘public’ functions: the entrance, study, kitchen and living; while the eastern section, furthest removed from the street, is reserved for the more intimate activities: a corridor that acts as TV lounge, the bedrooms and the bathroom. This means that the character of the functions gradually becomes more intimate. Each function has its own zone within the house, which can be cut off by means of translucent sliding walls.”

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“To create openness and lightness and to give the residents the feeling living outside in the green, the house is entirely oriented to the secluded garden at the south. Every room in the villa looks directly out on to this garden, because three of the four façades are made of glass.

The spacious wooden terrace forms a room outdoors, partly covered by a wooden awning supported by steel brackets that taper upwards. This gives it the appearance of floating above the ground. Ponds have been laid on both sides of the villa, so that the house here, too, appears to be raised above ground level, emphasising the lightness of the building.

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Looking at the plan, we can see that the architect has decided to organize the project in a very linear way, with privacy increasing as you move east (north is up). The concept of the house is that the solid linearity will act as a sort of wall that would split the site into three strips, entry, home and garden. The north face of the villa facing the entry will be very solid and heavily insulated, and the others will be floor to ceiling glass to allow for maximum light to flood in.

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The Netherlands are in a different situation to Kuwait in that they insulate from the cold and attempt to maximize solar heat gain. The sun rises from the east, moves south and then sets in the west. The southern facade of buildings are the ones that are exposed to the hottest sun at midday. This would be a problem in Kuwait, but is desired in colder climates such as this project. During the cold winter the sun is lower on the horizon and can penetrate deeper. Should this house have been built in Kuwait, you would expect the architect to flip the plan so the insulated wall would face south.

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The solid north wall now acts as a datum (an anchoring line). All solid elements are fixed to this datum, such as the bedrooms and cabinetry. The wall is seen as a thick element as you will not see it as simply a wall, but as a solid object. The kitchen space is implied as being a part of this solid object as your eye would naturally extrapolate the lines that are already there.

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This frees up the rest of the building to become open space. As you move eastwards through the house you will enter more private, intimate spaces. On the far west is a public study, moving east you enter the formal living room, the informal TV lounge, and finally the master bedroom. This conceptual simplicity is easily understood by anyone visiting the house.

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A major problem that is unfortunately very prevalent in Kuwait is the lack of a transitional entry. There is an extreme difference between indoor and outdoor environments. Temperature, humidity, light and sound are all environmental factors that the human body can adapt to, but it needs time and space to do that. Our pupils constrict to stop excess light from damaging our eyes. Blood vessels dilate to force heat to escape. Body functions are reflexive and natural, but they do not happen instantly. They need a few seconds to adapt to a new environment. That is why we have transition spaces. The harm to our body by suddenly entering a completely different environment is called body shock.

The problem in Kuwait is that an entry is generally thought of simply as a door. It is not a door, it is a space. It’s very important physiologically that a person walk through a well ventilated, shaded area before entering a sealed air-conditioned space. This transition is an experience that also allows a person to mentally prepare for the changed environment, from the hectic to the tranquil. A lot of homes and buildings in Kuwait lack this transition space, and simply have a door that separates the harsh outdoor environment from the cold air-conditioned space inside. This is completely wrong.

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In the example of Villa Berkel, the transition is fairly smooth. A person walks up a ramp and arrives at a shaded entry. A large pivot door awaits which leads to a roomy entrance space. This is not so big as to force you to add furniture, but allows enough room to welcome guests and to walk around in. There is a closet near the door, and also a very small toilet. This entry space leads both to the formal public study and to the informal semi-public kitchen.

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Obviously, this home typology would not be applicable in the denser suburban plots of Kuwait. What we can derive from it is the ability to compose and design a home based on simple organizational strategies. Every element in the design has been created by analyzing the specific privacy needs of every space. The tectonic rhythm amplifies this by creating simple space compartments that increase privacy sequentially.

Once this grand order is set, the fun process of adding the many details becomes simple. Details such as the outdoor bathtub and the exposed master bathroom accentuate the concept of privacy because of their location on the plan. You would feel comfortable in them because you would subconsciously feel as if you were on the private side of the home.

This villa is one level and is 277m2. This would be considered criminally small in Kuwait, yet because of its coherent architectural language, it feels so much bigger. Many homes in Kuwait densely pack each level with so much wall and have terrible natural lighting that they feel much smaller than they really are. This is usually the problem when a bad architect (or engineer) thinks of his job simply as having to solve a puzzle in plan by trying to fit the requested number of rooms and spaces within the building code requirements. This is also when the client thinks that designing a home is simply organizing the rooms so it all fits (the tawzee’a). This is wrong and it pains me to see that so much built work in our country has been designed in this way.

Usually, the ground level is dedicated to guest reception and the family would all live on the upper levels, making the home feel even smaller. We think we’re living in spacious houses by building big, but most homes end up with cluttered and segregated spaces that feel small, suffocated and isolated. Bigger is not always better.

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Location: Veenendaal, Netherlands
Project Architect: Paul de Ruiter
Project Team: Sander van Veen, Helga Traksel
Construction Adviser: Van Kessel & Janssen bv
Contractor: Bouwbedrijf Valleibouw
Site Area: 1,232 sqm
Constructed Area: 277 sqm
Project Year: 2003-2004
Construction year: 2004-2005
Photographs: Pieter Kers

Smart Electric Grid

By | Energy, Social | 12 Comments

Tarsheed is Kuwait’s national energy consumption awareness program. Although well intentioned, I believe that the program alone will not solve our energy problem. This is evidenced by our recent need to import power from Qatar, which has agreed to supply Kuwait with 500 MW of electricity this summer. Kuwait has reached an electricity consumption of about 15,000 kilowatt-hours per capita, which is amongst the highest in the world.

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Awareness and public discourse is a wonderful start, but it is not having the desired effect. This is a battle that has to be won through a radical change in our energy diet. We don’t just need to shed a few kilowatt hours from our annual consumption, we have to fundamentally alter the way we consume power.

The Ministry of Electricity and Water estimates that the electricity subsidy is nearly 13 times the price residential electricity users pay for their electricity consumption. This means that at its true market value, we should be paying 13 times more in electricity bills. What do we gain with cheap electricity?

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We begin to understand that the problem is with the dissonance in Government actions; on the one hand selling ridiculously cheap electricity and on the other pleading with the public not to waste it. It’s as if you feed your child nothing but sweets and candy, and then complain to the dentist that the toothpaste isn’t working.

The first act the Government should take is to gradually and progressively reduce the electricity subsidy until it is no longer in place. The benefits of the subsidy have long been outweighed by the detrimental disincentives it creates. People will never consider living in smaller houses to save energy. No one feels obligated to switch to efficient light bulbs and reduce the total number of lights in our homes. A pretty picture in a newspaper pleading with us to do so will only convert the soft of heart. We need a system that would alter the national behavior towards energy to bring a truly radical change.

A Smart Grid energy solution that is being implemented in progressive countries such as Australia, Canada and Italy can be applied in Kuwait very effectively. What is a Smart Grid? We all heard President Obama calling it the future of energy, but what does it really mean? A Smart Grid is an electricity grid that creates a two-way communication between the utility company and the appliances you own. In traditional systems the utility company has no idea how electricity is being used domestically. The only way they can charge you is by physically reading the meter outside your house (which only shows the total energy use). A Smart Grid system would have the utility install a Smart Meter in every house (currently costs about $150) which would link all the major appliances in your home together. What this means is that all the AC units, boilers, laundry units, cookers and so on will record their consumption and usage patterns in the Smart Meter which will coordinate their electricity consumption. This would then communicate automatically with the servers in the Ministry of Electricity and Water. This would allow the MEW to create detailed pricing structures and staggered usage patterns to help reduce consumption and increase efficiency.

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The thing about electricity is that it’s not easy to store it and generation is very gradual. You don’t just turn a knob and increase production to meet demand. What the MEW can do in a Smart Grid is allow for non-essential elements such as laundry and water boilers to simply delay their activation, or power on only during times of low demand. This would fill the ‘valleys’ in the daily electrical consumption graph and lower the ‘peaks’. It would also easily create market driven pricing that’s based on real time demand. It can provide consumers with detailed personal consumption bills, so the consumer would know exactly which appliance is costing the most. This would no doubt educate people far more than a mere advertisement ever could. People react to incentives if they can affect them personally.

Eventually, this system would allow for homes to sell back to the grid any energy produced locally. What this means is that people could invest in solar panels and install them on their rooftops. This would lower their electricity bills, and excess electricity would be automatically sold back to the MEW at market prices. The Government can subsidize this (as it is has positive incentives). I would also create a new national public-private partnership and build massive solar panel production facilities and research centers. Kuwait could become a global leader of solar energy technology.

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(Tesla Roadster – Electric Car with a top speed of 200km/h)

You could also purchase an electric car, which would charge at night when prices are low, then go to work and come back and sell whatever electricity is still charged in the battery back to the grid while prices are highest. All of this is done automatically, of course.

The whole point is that a Smart Grid allows for a much more efficient distribution of energy which rewards reduced consumption and punishes waste. Nothing will change if prices remain low. As long as the Government maintains the subsidy, people will never stop their wasteful habits no matter what you tell them. Our great advantage is that we have a nationlized utility company and none of the regulatory problems that exist in America and Europe. We can implement this system by decree. The only thing we lack is leadership with a vision for progress.

Innovation Inhibitors

By | Other | 13 Comments

Why is architectural and design innovation in Kuwait so rare? What is holding back architects and designers from expressing their full intent and exploring new ideas? We can’t simply blame the economic crisis, as this poverty of innovation has been around for decades. Not since the sixties have we seen real architectural progress in this country. Why?

Land Value: Residential and Commercial land values have skyrocketed in the past decade. This phenomenon is seen around the globe, but in Kuwait, the average value of a suburban residential plot is far above normal. Young people are finding it impossible to enter the housing market. Developing land and designing projects becomes an exercise in squeezing as much usable space as possible. People feel that they have to maximize the use of their land, otherwise they would be wasting it. You end up having identical mini-mansions that are constructed to the absolute maximum of building code limits. Almost every new house built in the past few years is much bigger than it has to be. This psychological factor forces clients to feel as if they’re not getting their money’s worth and will always force projects to be bloated and suffocate the space.

The Sun: For around 9 months of the year, the weather in Kuwait is wonderful. In the three months of extreme heat we can employ passive cooling methods, building orientation and massing to create comfortable micro-climates that manipulate the weather and make it surprisingly bearable. The sun has a profound effect on the design decisions being made in Kuwait. We can either work with the sun and find ways to adapt our building methods, or we can surrender and hide in refrigerators.

Jealousy: Unfortunately, Kuwaitis have long been trapped in a cycle of jealousy and spite. Enormous wealth often brings with it the desire to show off and prove superiority. This leads to people going out of their way to inhibit the success of others and to suffocate every attempt at creating competition. This ultimately leads to design stagnation, which is seen in the stale and uninspiring environment we inherited.

-The Solution? We need to have a design revolution that would shatter the myths and change our patterns of living. We are isolating ourselves from each other and from the environment in ways that are harmful to our mind, body and spirit. We have to reject the easy answers and ask the right questions.

I am not satisfied with Kuwait City. I feel that the direction it is heading in is not sustainable. We live in bigger homes with colder air conditioners, but are our lives really any better because of them? We fear change and progress, but where are we going by standing still?

Traffic in Kuwait

By | Energy, Metro, Social, Urban | 13 Comments

“KUWAIT CITY, June 12: MP Dr Waleed Al-Tabtabaei has forwarded questions to Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khalid Al-Sabah on the preparation and implementation of action plans to address the worsening traffic problems in the country, reports Al-Shahid daily. Al-Tabtabaei argued the government should prioritize transportation to ease people’s movement from one location to another. He said Kuwait is currently facing serious traffic problems that have been adversely affecting individuals, groups, companies and the national economy in general. He decried situations in which people spend three to four hours battling traffic congestion in a country whose population is less than three million.”

-Arab Times

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(Jan-Michael Breider)

Kuwait, along with most developing nations, has seen its growth restricted by crippling traffic jams. As with other major problems in Kuwait, it has been worsening exponentially because of a total lack of planning and forethought. We at re:kuwait will not wait any longer and are proposing our own solutions.

At the heart of it, the problem is simple. There are too many cars on the road. Therefore, the solutions will either be to reduce the number of cars or to build more roads. For years, traffic problems in the United States have seen them invest heavily into building more and more highways. The problem with this is that more highways will eventually generate increased demand for cars. This will clog up all the new highways and the traffic persists. This is not a solution for Kuwait, not only because it doesn’t really solve the traffic problem, but that we simply don’t have the room to build new highways where they’re needed.

It becomes clear then that the only solution is to reduce the demand for cars and provide alternate means of transportation. This won’t be easy, as the status-quo will be defended by highway contractors, automobile dealers and the services that depend on them.

We have to be persistent and fight back by arguing that reducing traffic not only ensures a better economy and quality of life but will lower our overall carbon emissions  and reduce our domestic consumption of oil. This requires a comprehensive solution. There are six ways we can lower automobile demand:

1: Abolish the fuel subsidy. Kuwait sells gasoline to the gas stations at a much lower price than its market value. This is called a subsidy, which means that the government is subsidizing (lowering) the price of gasoline for its citizens. Our government does this to alleviate the cost burden from its citizens. A fuel subsidy is in place in many developing countries as well as in almost all oil exporters.

Fuel Subsidies

As you can see, Kuwait sells its gasoline at around 1 dollar per gallon. Germany and other developed (and oil importing) nations sell gasoline 7 or 8 times the price in Kuwait. They do the opposite of us, they tax the fuel that is sold in gas stations. This reduces the demand for driving by artificially increasing the price. I’m not suggesting that we implement a fuel tax, but that we should simply abolish the subsidy. This means that the Kuwait Oil Company is not losing money by selling domestic oil at a loss while also reducing automobile demand. The revenue generated by this would be reinvested into alternate means of transportation as well as an increase in wages. This would cause some inflation, but the reduced traffic would more than make up for that by increasing productivity.

2: Provide alternate transportation modes. What are the alternatives to driving in Kuwait? To get from point A to B you have very little choice but to drive. Our suburban residential areas were designed to only be accessible by automobiles. The bus system has gotten a lot better these past few years, but they suffer just as much as cars in traffic. We need several new modes of transportation that overlap and provide alternatives so people can use the modes that appeal to them and provide the least resistance. The only way this would work is if driving becomes so unappealing that people would be willing to use mass transit. Right now, I believe we have reached this tipping point. Let’s imagine that the Kuwait Metro has been built and that the stations are well designed and strategically placed. People would begin to gradually alter their living, work and transportation patterns. Workplaces close to a Metro station would become more desirable. Residential projects will advertise that they are a walking distance from a Metro station. People would mix up their transportation routes, driving to a station, parking their car and using the Metro the rest of the way.

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The only way the Metro would be successful is if the stations are placed very close together in the dense areas (Salmiya, Hawalli, the City, etc). It has to be a comfortable 5 minute walk from one station to the next. This creates a network in the dense areas where every location is walking distance away from a transportation node. This would mean that having a car in these areas is entirely optional. You do not have to have a car to live. The suburbs would be served with massive Park and Ride stations around the perimeter (and one in the center) of the residential areas. On the Metro map above, these stations are Bayan, Mishref, Shuhada, 5th Ring Road, 6th Ring Road and Damascus. Every mall, university campus and major hospital would have a Metro station that would link them to the system. This project is essential to the progressive development of our nation and its implementation should not be delayed.

3: Invest in RFID technology. RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) is an emerging field of technology where small amounts of information are stored on a cheap microchip which transmits that information through radio waves to an RFID scanner. Dubai has already implemented this technology to serve its toll booths by allowing cars to drive through the toll without having to stop to pay. Their system (called Salik) requires every car in Dubai to install an RFID sticker.

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The sensor on the toll booth reads every car that passes underneath and deducts the fee from that drivers’ account. In Kuwait, we do not have a desperate need for toll booths, and implementing them would be counterproductive. We can use this technology for other purposes, such as:

-Replacing all the speed cameras with RFID sensors. An RFID system would have no way to measure the speed of a car as it rushes past. All it can do is scan the chip and download the License plate number and the exact time the car went past. A second RFID scanner further down the road does the exact same thing. A database would record the exact time each specific car has passed every scanner. The distance between Sensor 1 and Sensor 2 is divided by the time it has taken the car to go past them, revealing the average speed of the car. If the average speed is above the speed limit on that stretch of road, the driver would be fined accordingly. This is a completely automated system. Here is an quick example of how it would work:

Distance between Sensor 1 and 2 = 4km and the speed limit is 120km/h:


Picture-1


-Congestion Charge.
This is a flexible method for adjusting the cost of driving. It is similar to a toll booth in that it charges people to use the road, but it does not have a fixed value. In times of heavy traffic (rush hour) the charge would be highest. When traffic is low, the charge would be zero. This would force people to find alternate methods during rush hour and add more incentive to use mass transit and other means. The cost of using the road would be shown on the big automated signs that have been installed which currently serve little purpose. This system should only be implemented if the traffic is especially bad in a specific road and diverting commuters to other routes would solve the problem.

-Interactive online traffic map. 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. If possible, it would be integrated into car navigation systems so your route would be automatically adjusted based on traffic patterns. Software would be developed to create web and iPhone apps that take advantage of the open source traffic information. The technology exists in metro areas in the United States. This is not science fiction.

The variables are comparatively tiny and the vast number of calculations do not have to occur in real time. The RFID system only has to record the time and location while the calculations can be done remotely and at any time. This would be of immense benefit for the safety of commuters, as it would mean that reckless drivers can no longer simply slow down at each fixed camera and speed away once past. Anyone that has spent time in the rural areas of the United States would know that a similar method has already been in place for many years. One traffic cop would wait for a car to pass, and record the exact time on a stop watch. He would describe the car to his partner through his radio a kilometer or two down the road. His partner would use a stopwatch to record the time it takes for that car to go past him, and a quick calculation would reveal the average speed of the car, even if the driver slowed down when he saw the police car. It works really well, but unless the process is automated, it is impossible to implement in high density situations.

4: Fuel cost stickers. A new law should be implemented that requires a sticker to be placed on every car in every showroom showing the average amount of money the owner would be expected to pay in fuel costs per year. MPG is incomprehensible for most buyers and hides the true cost. It seems arbitrary and is hard to quantify. When a prospective buyer compares two cars they would instantly be able to see the different fuel costs involved. For example, on one side an SUV that would cost 2000KD per year and on the other a hybrid that costs 300KD per year. The buyer would add this cost to the final sticker price and make a much more informed decision. This would add a visible incentive for buying more fuel efficient cars. This demand would also mean that car dealers would import more fuel efficient cars and market them aggressively. We consume less gasoline and export more crude oil. Everybody wins.

5: Migratory traffic. The way the urban plan of Kuwait City was devised has created large districts that are very specialized. This high degree of segregated zoning creates innumerable social, cultural and transportation problems. The Business district are evacuated after work hours. The Entertainment districts flooded on weekends. There is no quick solution to this problem. What is required is a sustained effort to decentralize Kuwait and create more mixed use development which would fragment the city and allow for a less predictable traffic and transportation network. We have to educate the relevant authorities that strict zoning laws and suburban sprawl create far more problems than they solve. We need to start rethinking how we organize Kuwait City.

6: Raise the driving age to 21. Our population is growing fast. More and more young people are reaching 18 years of age and will be eligible to drive. Most fatal traffic accidents are unfortunately a result of reckless driving by 18 year old boys (or younger).

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This diagram shows the expected population pyramid for Kuwait in 2010. The spikes in the population between 20 and 45 years is due to our foreign labor population. Removing these spikes would make our pyramid look something like this:

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As you can see, the base of the pyramid is growing every year. This means that every year, more babies are being born than the year before. Our population is expanding. Increasing the driving age by three years would very quickly lower the number of new cars on the road. An obvious benefit is that 21 year olds would be a little more mature and would not drive as recklessly, making our roads safer and saving lives. Students would complain that they have to go to university and they can only drive there. Seeing how they complain about the traffic and parking problems on campus, this might benefit them as well. I believe that Kuwaiti students have an unjustified sense of entitlement and many will reject the idea that they have to be driven to campus, or find other ways to get there. If you really have a problem, you can live on campus. You can use the metro to get to class. Students have been driven to school from kindergarten through high school. Why stop there? Of course, this simply delays the problem. In three years the students will all start driving. This three year delay will give us time to implement most of the solutions. Seeing as how our population is increasing exponentially, we need to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, it becomes increasingly clear that simply making driving less desirable will not solve the problem and only inflict additional suffering. We have to provide an alternative to driving. The effect of abolishing the fuel tax, creating a new RFID speed limit system, raising the driving limit and so on is punishing. It would only make sense if people can reject the driving option and choose a far more desirable mode of transportation. The alternative would be to use the Metro, carpooling, riding the bus, or simply driving less. What this means is that there are less cars on the road with people maintaining a higher quality of life. We have to make the car optional. Only then would we see the end of our traffic nightmare.

NY High Line

By | Architecture, Urban | 19 Comments

The High Line is an abandoned railway line in Manhattan. It was built in the early 1930s and has been unused since 1980. It used to transport cattle into the heart of the city. For more than a quarter century, the line was in a state of disrepair, yet the elevated structure was basically sound. Wild grass and plants grew on the abandoned track. During the Giuliani administration, the High Line was set for demolition to make way for development.

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In 1999, neighborhood residents Robert Hammond and Joshua David created a community-based group called Friends of the High Line to try and stop the demolition and transform the High Line into an elevated linear park. They managed to raise more than $30 million dollars to help fund the project, which was used along with funding from the city. The first section of the linear park was opened to the public last Tuesday (June 9th 2009).

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The new High Line is a wonderful example of how we can reuse existing infrastructure and the potential to simply reinvent spaces. The structure was there. People always imagined this possibility occurring, yet for so long it never materialized. It took great perseverance and dedication for the Friends of the High Line to follow through on their ideas and see the project to completion. It is certainly worth the wait.

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The project has already reinvigorated its neighborhood. Several hotels and museums have decided to relocate alongside the High Line and will become a part of the experience. Pedestrians now have a wonderful new route that elevates them above the noisy and dirty streets below. The project was designed by landscape firm Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

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Buildings and infrastructure are static objects, yet the programs that conceived them may have become obsolete long ago. Why should the built environment be held hostage to that original intent? The New High Line transformed the obsolete into the essential. I can imagine the adjacent buildings creating elevated entrances that provide access directly to the park.

Where in Kuwait City can we see the potential for such urban transformation? There are so many possibilities and we here at re:kuwait will attempt to shine the spotlight on such places and visualize how that transformation would take place.

Here are two quick examples of locations in Kuwait City that would benefit immensely from urban renewal. Of course, the obvious candidate is the green belt adjacent to the First Ring Road. This linear space extends from the Sheraton roundabout all the way to the south corner of Dasman Palace. There are only a few buildings on the strip, such as the ice skating rink and the new kids’ education center. The potential here is to create a mixed use park that provides places to jog, to relax and to escape the city (arriving either by walking or car). The financial incentive would be that the land adjacent to the park would become far more desirable and mixed use development would benefit greatly from being built alongside a high-value asset such as a park.

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The space is currently vastly underutilized with classically landscaped, badly lit gardens and big open dusty patches. The park would also be only a pedestrian bridge away from the residential areas below the First Ring Road and the redevelopment would provide an excellent ‘mamsha’ for their residents.

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Another example for redevelopment in Kuwait is in Salmiya, between the end of the 4th ring road and Salem Al-Mubarak Street (that’s Marina Mall on the top right of the image). As it is, you cannot drive through the space. There is a U-turn at the end of both streets, and the space is lined with parking on either side of the road. A full parking situation would mean that there would be four lines of cars throughout the length of the space. The potential here is to simply remove the streets entirely and have a shaded pedestrian promenade.

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The new lively space will be home to street performers, art galleries, small shops owned by young, energetic Kuwaiti entrepreneurs, quirky restaurants and lounge spaces. There is so much demand for space in Kuwait, but most of the available rental space is in hermetically sealed Malls. This is an alternative.

There is ample space for parking in the surrounding lots. The landowners can even charge for parking during high demand. The buildings on either side of the promenade are 30 meters apart, which is wide enough to even allow the shops to extend inwards in places so as to have usable space above the extension. I imagine the end result would look something like this:

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The shops lose by not having direct access to the street, but they would gain far more from increasing the ‘prestige’ of the street and being part of a new and vibrant location. The promenade is accessible to Marina Mall, as it is only one block away.

It’s a shame that nobody has done this yet. The potential is there, yet the space is stagnant and wasted. In future posts we will illustrate and visualize how we believe these projects should manifest. Our hope is that people would be inspired and take the initative to try and make them happen. If two guys in NY city could create a park on an abandoned railway line, we can do so much more.


EDIT:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H23jeMWGnbc&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

Here’s a video from the Inhabitat where they interviewed the lead design architect James Corner from Field Operations and Ricardo Scofidio from DS+R.

Amenah Benjasem

By | Other | 5 Comments

We here at re:kuwait are proud to introduce our newest contributor, Amenah Benjasem. Amenah is a Kuwaiti architect and founder of the charity organization By Virtue. Having completed a B.Arch at the American University of Sharjah, she has worked for Zaha Hadid Architects in London. Amenah will be focused on parametric urbanism with special attention towards MEL scripting and digital programming.

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The field of scripting has seen an explosion of interest in architectural and urban circles as a result of advances in digital fabrication and rapid prototyping. The means now exist for a machine to physically build anything you can visualize on a computer.

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MEL Scripting example:


for ($i = 0; $i< 30; $i++) {
for ($j = 1; $j<16; $j++) {
$rx = rand(-3, 2);
$rz = rand(-4,4);
////for change in length of brick
int $l;
if ($i < 10) {
$l = $i ;
} else if ($i >= 10) {
$l = ($l-1);
}
polyCube -w 4 -d 1 -h 1; //for brick length variation, change -w “4” to “$l”;
move $rx 0 $rz;
}
select -all ;
group;
rotate 0 10deg 0;
move -r 0 1 0;
}

bricks2_d-1

The preceding MEL (Maya Embedded Language) script will produce a variation of the image shown above. The variables and parameters can be manipulated to produce a digital form that is parametrically generated; meaning that it was created using a set of rules and not each cube being individually organized into such a form. The designer simply sets the rules of the game, the script, and the computer does the calculation and visualization.

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There are some wonderful examples of scripting on her blog Mayation, and we look forward to her contributions to re:kuwait in the future. What we can expect to see from her is an exploration of scripting and a digital expression of urban variables and parameters of Kuwait City.

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