Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: Cities in the Third Millennium

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PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE


In Search for a Local Image in the Arab City: The Case of Kuwait City

Omar Khattab

In its earlier attempts to catch up with western modernity and civilisation, the Arab City has lost, whether intentionally or unintentionally, its local image. Since this image was greatly associated with backwardness and obsoleteness. And was regarded as unfit setting for modern activities and uses. At the same time western models conveying the desired modern image were ready for the pick. Hence architectural development mainly followed the prevailing international style with few exceptions, which addressed the history and tradition of the Arab City.

With the loss of local image in the modern Arab City there was a greater loss of identity. This has resulted in a separation between the Arab City's past and its present, as well as a greater concern for its future. This was apparent in the main cities of the Arabian Gulf states. Particularly in the case of Kuwait, reassert of local identity has become a matter of great importance especially after Iraq's claims in Kuwait and the second Gulf war. The search for a culturally and traditionally responsive architecture, which started during the late 1980s, has taken a boost by the political conditions.

This paper compares some examples of contemporary architecture in Kuwait to examine the effect of Western architecture on their design. At the same time it contrasts this with some other examples, which revive local design elements and traditions in contemporary practice in order to preserve continuity and reflect change. The aim is to document the effect of globalisation on the local architecture of Kuwait, and to investigate whether an attempt to portray a local indigenous image with some global ingredients can prove successful.


1.1 INTRODUCTION

The Arab City has experienced dramatic changes during the second half of the 20th century. Changes in the political, economic and cultural arenas especially in architecture. These changes are attributed to a number of factors such as political independence, rapid population increases and most important of all is the discovery of oil in the Arabian Gulf states. As a direct consequence the built

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