Monthly Archives: February 2011

Kuwait Metro: New Map

By | Metro | 10 Comments

Click image to enlarge (a bit)

I was just sent the redesigned plan for Kuwait Metro. I spoke to some people at KOTU and they confirmed that the metro lines are correct, but they have no idea about the tram lines; they seem to think that those aren’t very feasible and don’t know who added them to this map.

I think these latest changes are pretty great. Some thoughts:

  • No more stupid Gulf Road metro line. A major part of the original design was a line going from Salwa/Fahaheel all the way to Sharq along the coast. Imagine the sea-view in Kuwait being obstructed by an elevated railway. This is now only the case around Belajat Street, which makes sense because that area is already pretty dense.
  • Damascus Street! I’m still not sure how I feel about this, because I can’t be totally unbiased. Qortuba has 3 stations surrounding it! They’re really trying to make me happy. I don’t know how effective the Damascus line would be, though. It won’t work unless the areas undergo a complete ‘walkable street’ transformation with safer sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, bike lanes and shaded streets. As it is, I don’t see it working. The tram lines make a lot of sense to me. I could park my car/bike in the co-op, take the tram to the station and then go anywhere. I’m not sure they can work on some of the existing narrow streets, but it would make the Damascus line much more effective.
  • I’m not sure if Hawalli and Salmiya have been fully served. A lot of very dense areas don’t have a close enough metro stop.
  • They make the distinction between Park and Ride stations and simple metro stops (look for the grey ones).
  • Overall, it seems like a major shift has been made in order to make the Metro geared towards Kuwaitis living in the residential areas between 1st and 5th ring road, and away from the denser parts of Salmiya and Hawalli. I’m not sure if this was a good decision, as I doubt the residential areas will be allowed to increase their density anytime in the future. Salmiya and Hawalli residents, if given the option for a car free lifestyle, have a lot more room (politically and legally) to grow and densify even further.

The diagram I made below shows a 5 and 15 minute walk radius from every metro station. 15 minutes is a long time to walk in the summer, so looking only at the smaller 5 minute circles shows that the vast majority of the dense areas of Kuwait (except for the City) are very underserved. The relatively lower density residential areas (Nuzha, Faiha, etc) are easily accesible by comparison, which makes no sense.

Update: I don’t see why the Damascus line can’t just be a Bus Rapid Transit line, since it’s already on a pretty wide road. BRT is a dedicated lane for specialized buses driving back and forth on a fixed schedule.

Biomimicry

By | Energy | 2 Comments
[ted id=1072]

If there was one thing that I would absolutely love to have in Kuwait, it would be the Sahara Forest Project. It is basically a hybrid desalination/greenhouse/concentrated solar plant. It uses concentrated solar energy which reflects sunlight to create heat that boils steam. The steam is forced through turbines and eventually condenses into pure water which would be used to grow crops. The video doesn’t do the system justice. There is such beautiful complexity in the way that every output is used as a resource to create value.

The great thing of course is that it doesn’t use any fossil fuels and has several useful outputs. It doesn’t look at energy production as a linear path, but as a closed loop. I don’t understand why we don’t already have several of these up and down the coast. Of course, the biggest challenge is what to do with the brine (very salty water) that is left behind. Kuwaiti waters are already saltier than normal because of our desalination, so we can’t expect to keep pumping more salt concentrations back into it. That seems to be the missing piece in all this.

Inputs

  1. Seawater
  2. Nutrients
  3. Carbon Dioxide
  4. Sunlight

Outputs

  1. Freshwater
  2. Reforestation
  3. Electricity
  4. Humid Air
  5. Food
  6. Biofuel

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.

Silent Jewels in the Desert

By | Urban | 8 Comments

I think a cautionary example of what Jassem is describing would be the Freedom Towers debacle. They had a very public competition, in which hundreds of designs were submitted. The winner, Daniel Libeskind, had a really cool looking but ultimately unfeasible design. With the bureaucracy and interests involved pulling the project in so many directions, the end result was an architectural farce. The design was compromised endlessly and it still hasn’t been built, 10 years after the attack. I guess what i’m saying is that even when things are (supposedly) open and in competition, there’s still lots of room for things to go wrong.

Also, my problem wasn’t that these designs are done after an architect is selected and there’s no motive to do good work. That’s not what i’m worried about. Most of the buildings that are the work of famous architects, buildings that are conceived to celebrate the city or the patrons, are usually show-off islands. They don’t integrate well with the city. We have too many bad examples of this in Kuwait, buildings that are surrounded by highways and aren’t really part of something more. They ignore their context, culturally and physically. We have too many silent jewels in the desert. It’s time to start thinking about how make a city that works, not a building that would ignore it.