Tabouq A view of the architecture of the past, by Deema Alghunaim
During the 1960s and as a result of oil discovery, a great planning revolution overlaid the old city of Kuwait. The system of expropriation or ‘tathmeen’ (where the government gave large sums of money to citizens living in the city and sold land in the newly planned suburbs at very cheap prices) caused migration from the city to what had previously been desert; from the man-made urban pattern to the natural desert pattern. Kuwait’s boom also attracted migrants from surrounding countries - all of which made this a highly active city at the time.
City planning undertaken back then was an overlapping rather than interwoven system. Since the rapid construction upon non-strategic decisions, throughout those years it produced neutral architectural spaces which couldn’t hope to mend the scars of the old city’s demolition and its citizen’s dislocation. Therefore city planning failed to solve the urban dilemma. However, I consider the facades of those neutral spaces (buildings constructed in the 1960s) as valid case studies of the city.
The facades of 1960s buildings were reflecting an architectural fashion rather than an architectural response to context, structure and local know-how. The structural textile blocks of Frank Lloyd Wright were imitated by pre-cast concrete motifs used as ornamental non-structural screens producing patterns as if cut through a stencil. With time, those fragile facades had proven their structural behaviour beyond the classic image of a wall, and beyond the classic need for a wall.
The textile screens showcased in my exhibition attracted inhabitants within their own hosting scale; such as cats, pigeons, personal belongings and waste as well as weather and layering effects either by substitution, addition, or subtraction.
New cities built according to the facades’ pattern and structural weakness are no longer the measure.
The Kuwait Urbanization: documentation, analysis, critique - Saba George Shiber, 1964 Kuwait
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Meaning of Materials - Terry L. Patterson, AIA, 1994 University of Oklahoma
Cinema 2: time- image - Gilles Deleauze (translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta), 1989 The Athlone Press, London
Camouflage - Neil Leach, 2006 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #22 May 2010