27 05, 2019

Kuwait wins World Stadium Congress award for the new Sabah Al-Salem Stadium

2019-05-27T09:24:31+03:00May 27, 2019|11 Comments

The new stadium design for the AlArabi Club has won the ‘Best Future Stadium Design’ at the World Stadium Congress. The stadium was designed to FIFA World Cup and UEFA standards and will have 30,000 (shaded) seats.

The building above street level almost floats above the ground floor, clearly separating the activities taking place within it. The stadium is closed from all sides of the pitch. The modern design of the stadium’s facade incorporates a white continuous block unifying the wall and roof as one element. This element wraps around the tiers as tightly as possible and incorporates the symbol of the club. The wheat leaves on the logo were chosen as the symbol for the new era in the life of the Al-Arabi Sports Club as they mean growth and prosperity. The pattern is more open at concourse level, as it is a more public area, hence allowing for light and ventilation into the bowl, while being more closed at the top (where the sports halls are) until it fades into the solid form of the curved roof. [Source]

The stadium was designed by the local architectural and engineering firm Pace who are behind a number of cool projects in Kuwait. The stadium will replace the current Sabah Al-Salem Stadium but I wasn’t able to find out any information on when it would be completed by.

21 05, 2019

Kuwait Art Scene in the 70s

2019-05-21T08:58:19+03:00May 21, 2019|6 Comments

I stumbled upon the instagram post below the other day by the textile designer Christopher Hyland and thought it was worth sharing:

The 1970’s art scene in Kuwait was exhilarating.

Assuming my memory serves me correctly as to date, in 1977 or so the Kuwaiti Ministry of Communication invited me to judge the Kuwait National Art Competition, exactly why and how I cannot remember.

While in Kuwait I attended a Warhol exhibition in a large tent (although Google reports that it took place in the confines of the Sultan Gallery), had breakfast with I M Pei and at the arts awards ceremony I was presented a medal cum Kuwaiti memento of appreciation for my judging efforts (see the accompanying images of the medal and of me seated at dinner with the artists). The arts scene was flourishing.

I met Members of the Al Ghanim family and the owners of the pioneering Sultan Gallery.

Artists organized a weekend, tented desert encampment for me. I recall that the Minister or was it Director of the Ministry of Communications had the-unusual for Kuwait-nickname Bucky Beaver.

One hopes that a vibrant Kuwait arts scene continues to flourish, war and other pressures having so much in the event lessened but not by any means removed the prospects those golden years held. -CH

Sultan Gallery also responded to the post with this extra tidbit of information:

Thank you for posting this, it brings back nice memories of Kuwait back then. Just to correct one of the points in the post, the Andy Warhol exhibition wasn’t shown in a tent it was at Dhaiat Abdulla Al-Salem Gallery (now know as Ahmed Al-Adwani Gallery) and organized by the National Council of Arts, Culture & Letters by the recommendation of Najat Sultan

20 05, 2019

Ice Skating Rink to be Demolished

2019-05-20T09:01:04+03:00May 20, 2019|52 Comments

As a kid growing up in Kuwait in the 80s there weren’t that many things to do, so my mum enrolled me in skating classes at the ice skating rink (that’s me with the instructor in the picture above). I took classes until one day I fell and cut my hand on skates and didn’t really go back to the rink until the early 90s. The ice skating rink in the early 90s was the place to be, with the latest hits blasting on the ice skating rink speakers while we either ice skated or hung out in the ice skating rink’s arcade. Now the ice skating rink is the next national landmark in line to be demolished.

Laila Al-Hamad is the founder of Zeri Crafts, a brand that casts light on Kuwait’s crafts heritage. Recently she published the article below in the Arab Times and with her permission, I’m publishing it here along with some great photos she took.

Tearing Down our Memories

A skating rink in the desert is about to celebrate its 40th year of life. Forty years of an architectural masterpiece that has withstood the Iraqi invasion, the harsh summers, the wear and tear of time is truly an event to be celebrated. But just as Sawaber and countless other landmarks that have marked our architectural landscape have been mindlessly demolished without a purpose or a plan, the Kuwait Ice Skating Rink too is on death row.

A tent-like structure with wooden pillars reminiscent of Bait al-Shaar, the Kuwait Ice Skating Rink is a magnificent piece of architecture that was built in close collaboration with France in the late 1970s. And just as its unique architecture stands out in the midst of the many soulless glass towers that adorn the Kuwait City skyline, its place in Kuwait’s memory landscape is even more extraordinary. Beyond any commercial value, the Ice Skating Rink is – par excellence – a pillar of our national heritage; it has shaped the childhood memories of hundreds of thousands of the country’s inhabitants. Ask anyone who grew up in Kuwait in the 1980s what the Ice Skating Rink means to them, and expect a barrage of ecstatic responses.

Against all odds, a skating rink in the desert became the perfect oasis for those seeking a cool sanctuary away from the scorching sun. Upon entering this haven of tranquility, we were welcomed by the smell of cold, a smell so rare in Kuwait that we stored it in our olfactory memory. Take a left and find yourself in the ice-skates rental room, lined with dozens of benches awaiting eager skaters. A few meters beyond that lay the space we were all here for: the big rink. Grand and majestic, the big rink is a marvel, its walls bedecked with striking geometric patterns in warm reddish and ochre hues reminiscent of Sadu weaving patterns. Here would begin our journey on the ice, energizing us with a feeling of freedom and joy that few sports can equal.

Despite a hiatus associated with the Iraqi invasion, the rink has been operational for almost 4 decades, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. In my case, what was part of my childhood became part of my adulthood: I would take my children there to learn to skate as would many of my friends. This generational link gives the ice skating rink a special status; whereas many of the landmarks of our youth – including cinemas and theaters – have been abandoned or demolished, the rink has stood firm in its resilience. One of the few non-consumeristic enterprises in the country, it continues to be a refuge for those seeking family fun in a non-commercial setting. The unique modernist design fills us with a sense of pride linked to Kuwait’s golden age of architecture, where function met aesthetics. The place leaves few of us unmoved.

Inaugurated in 1980, the rink was not only the first such structure in Kuwait, but also the first ice skating complex in the whole of the Middle East. March 2020 marks its 40th anniversary. But instead of celebrating this milestone, we are getting ready for its imminent demolition. It is being sacrificed for the Shaheed Park phase 3 extension, making way for a concert hall and – ironically enough – a new skating rink. The rink is facing demolition not because of a lack of demand from the public (it welcomes 150,000 visitors a year), nor because of any maintenance or structural issues, but because someone has decided to build something new. Why demolish a perfectly functioning architectural masterpiece? Why not renovate and revitalize the existing structure and integrate it into the park? We can only gain from bridging rather than eliminating the various layers of Kuwait’s built landscape.

Two weeks ago, the JACC opened its doors to a Kuwaiti musical called “Memoirs of a Sailor.” By word of mouth, news of the musical spread like wildfire. Almost every person I know, Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis alike, attended, some even twice. What drove thousands of people to the show was a thirst for memories, roots, a past that is now completely out of reach to us. Isn’t it paradoxical that we are looking for identity inside theaters while we destroy it outside? Many Kuwaitis are upset about the neglect and erasure of their culture in its many forms; the architecture, the crafts and even the natural environment through the pollution of the sea.

The senseless destruction of our architectural heritage for the extraction of commercial value for the few is a violation of our national heritage. The Kuwait Ice Skating Rink should not be the next victim on the list of public executions that awaits our many landmarks. In a spirit of sustainability, and historical and architectural preservation, the structure should become a listed architectural landmark integrated into the new extension. May our development be respectful of our memories and our environment. And may wisdom and the public good prevail.

By Laila Al-Hamad

19 05, 2019

I. M. Pei Was Here

2019-05-19T09:17:48+03:00May 19, 2019|13 Comments

Over the weekend the renowned architect I. M. Pei passed away at the age of 102. He’s behind some of the worlds iconic buildings like the Louvre’s glass pyramid and the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong, but what few people know is that he also designed an apartment building here in Kuwait. Back in the lates 70s I. M. Pei designed what are now the Massaleh towers in Bneid Al Gar. You’ve probably driven past them and never realized the architectural importance of them but I think that applies to a lot of old buildings in Kuwait. In this specific case though, it’s also difficult to find information about these buildings online, most likely because of the age of the project and the different names it goes by. For example, on the I.M. Pei website they’re listed as “Hilton Area Housing” and in the book “Modern Architecture Kuwait” they’re listed as “Hilton Hotel Apartments”.

I heard one rumor that the reason there isn’t much information is because I. M. Pei was upset with the project. Supposedly he had originally designed just one tower but then his design was taken and replicated to create the remaining towers. But, don’t think this rumor is very accurate since the model pictured above which contains all four tower blocks is listed on his website as one of his projects.

Here is the link to I. M. Pei’s page of Kuwait projects. There is another project listed there but no idea what that is or if it had ever been constructed.

Photo on top taken by Nelson Garrido

3 04, 2019

Contemporary Kuwaiti Houses

2019-04-03T10:05:30+03:00Apr 3, 2019|0 Comments

Contemporary Kuwaiti Houses is a photo-essay on the domestic architecture of Kuwait that was written by Kuwaiti architect Huda Al-Bahar, and published back in 1985. It’s not too long an essay and worth reading, but, if you don’t feel like reading you could also just check out the photos. Here is the link to the PDF hosted on ArchNet (you need to click on download)

30 03, 2019

Arabica Featured in Wallpaper*

2019-03-30T22:17:15+03:00Mar 30, 2019|4 Comments

Arabica’s Mall 30 location was featured in the design and lifestyle magazine Wallpaper* last week. I haven’t been to that location yet because it’s so out of my way, but I had seen photos of it and it really is a beautiful space.

The interior was designed by the Japanese design studio Nendo and opened up last December. If you’re interested in passing by, here is the location on Google Maps.

Here is the link to the article on Wallpaper*.

The store was also featured on Design Boom where they have even more pictures of the space.

25 03, 2019

Manara Mall. New project by AGi architects

2019-03-25T18:41:25+03:00Mar 25, 2019|17 Comments

I’ve featured the work of AGi architects on the blog before but most of the projects I featured were beautiful residential homes they had designed. I think this is the first commercial project I’ve seen by them and its as beautifully designed as their other projects.

I haven’t been to this mall myself yet and so have no idea what stores are open there, but I’m planning to pass by just to check out the architecture. The AGi website has more photos and details on this project which you can check out on their website if you’re interested [Here]

Update: Here is their location on [Google Maps]

24 03, 2019

The Best Looking Restaurant in Kuwait?

2019-03-24T08:40:46+03:00Mar 24, 2019|9 Comments

Usually, when I write about new restaurants that just opened up I talk about the food, but not in this case. The Cardamom Club is a new Indian restaurant that recently opened up and I think it has the best looking interior of any restaurant in Kuwait.

The restaurant is part of the Napkin Affair group who also own the concepts Ubon, Ananas, Simsim, and Mana. They designed all their restaurants in house and until recently I had thought Ananas was their best work, but not anymore. So far I’ve been to The Cardamom Club twice and on both occasions, I thought the food was average but the interior really beautiful.

If you’re looking for a new place to try out you should give The Cardamom Club a visit, they’re located in Kuwait City right next to the pizza place Pinocchio’s. Here is their location on [Google Maps] and their instagram account is @cardamom.club