Monthly Archives: May 2010

Bricks from Sand

By | Energy | 7 Comments

Ginger Krieg Dosier, a professor at the American University of Sharjah (my alma mater), invented an alternative to the traditional way of making bricks by using low-cost rapid-prototyping machines, sand, bacteria and pee.

The process starts with sand, which is then printed with a layer of bacteria, calcium chloride, and urea. Microbes in the sand react with that mixture, forming a glue that binds the sand together. The bricks are built up in the printer, layer by layer. Once the process is complete, the bricks can be as strong as marble.

Dosier dreams of replacing traditional bricks with her biomanufactured masonry which would reduce world-wide carbon emissions by “at least” 800 million tons a year. She recently won the Metropolis magazine 2010 Next Generation Design Competition, which aimed to find a “small and elegant” but also crucial fix that could have big-time impact if scaled-up.

This reminded me of an ambitious recent project by Magnus Larsson at the Architectural Association. He proposed to use a similar process to solidify parts of the Sahara desert into livable architecture. This may seem like science fiction, but it really does work (on a small scale). It makes me wonder what a large, state funded research project aimed at studying this process and applying it at a larger scale would lead to. Are you listening, KISR?

Thoughts on the Metro

By | Metro, Urban | 6 Comments

We can’t simply think of Kuwait Metro as an independent project. It should be seen as an integral element that is part of a multi-layered transportation network. For example, the small train that will be part of the Salmiya Park project should have easy access to a metro stop to basically expand the alternative transportation network beyond the metro itself.

Streetcars and buses are viable alternatives to patch urban areas that are inaccessible to the metro. These have to be planned together and put in place simultaneously. These can both provide shortcuts in the metro routes, as well as expanding the catchment areas where people can comfortably walk to a station. This is important in the dense urban areas. I can imagine a streetcar running through Canada Dry Street in Shuwaikh:

Most of the above ground rail lines will have to be elevated because in most places there simply isn’t any room for an on-grade light rail. This means that the stations will have to be elevated as well, like in Dubai. Access to the station (stairs, escalators, elevators) will have to be integrated into the pedestrian flow of the existing fabric. That is really hard and expensive. It has to be as easy as possible to walk to one of those things.

This is really ugly. Hilali street is going to be one of the busiest in Kuwait in a few years and will have lots of people walking on it once alHamra and United are finished. I would try to avoid elevated lines as much as possible (they cost a lot more than just building it on the ground). I would gladly sacrifice a lane on either side to make that happen. In fact, I would want it to look like this:

I moved the four lane two-way street to the north side and made the south side of the street pedestrian + light rail. I did the same thing for Canada Dry Street in the image earlier. That’s really the only way to keep the light rail network on grade because you save some space by removing the useless island that was in the middle of the road. It would be a bad idea to have an elevated light rail in the middle, flanked by a street on either side. I hope they don’t end up doing that because it’s the easier option (politically) even though it would end up being more expensive.

Event: Pecha Kucha #5

By | Other | No Comments

What is it?

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.

It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit chat”, and pronounced P-CHuh K-CHuh), it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds.
It’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

This is the fifth Pecha Kucha event in Kuwait.


  • Talal Obeid
  • Lulwa & Balsam Al Ayoub
  • Hussa Al-Humaidhi
  • Amani Al Thuwaini & Farah Al Haider
  • Lewis Chapman
  • Yvonne Wakefield
  • Zeyad Boarki
  • Dari Al Huwail
  • Sama Al-Wasmi
  • Ahmed Al-Gharabally

Where is it?

Museum of Modern Art on Gulf Road, near Souq Sharq.

When is it?

Wednesday, May 5th, 7:30pm-9:30pm

To find out more about the event, visit their facebook page.