50s to 90s Complaints

Khazal Palace Altered with Concrete

The Khazal Palace (also called Alghanim Palace and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jabir Palace) located in Dasman near the British Embassy is finally being restored after being left to crumble for decades. But, yesterday a photo surfaced showing that concrete columns were planted inside the palace as part of the reconstruction.

What does this mean?

The palace dates to 1916 and was constructed with clay, it was one of the last Persian-style archaeological building in Kuwait. Since the palace was listed as a heritage site in Kuwait, it was protected and had the highest priority for conservation. With conservation projects it is paramount to restore the building back to it’s original state using as much of the original construction material as possible. The Kuwait antiquities law states that it is prohibited to modify, alter or distort immovable monuments. By pouring concrete into the palace it means it no longer is being restored correctly and thus loses its heritage status.

To try and simplify what this all means, imagine demolishing the palace completely and then rebuilding it again using modern day materials, is it still a heritage site? No because it’s now a new building and not an old building that was saved and restored. This is basically what has happened in this case to some degree. The building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list back in 2015, but because the restoration process is being done incorrectly, it will now no longer qualify to be on the list and so will not have any of the protection that comes with that status. Similar story to what happened with the Kuwait National Assembly Building, because they constructed the curved/wavy office building on the side of the main structure, the Kuwait National Assembly Building was disqualified from ever becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Kuwait Towers on the other hand which is currently going through a restoration process (the blue discs are being restored or replaced) is abiding by the strict restoration rules. The process is also being overlooked by the Getty Foundation “Keeping it Modern” grant which the towers received in 2020 (1 of just 77 grants given worldwide):

All of the orbs possess a remarkable shimmering quality thanks to 41,000 enameled metal discs in shades of blue, green, and gray that stud their surfaces in a carefully variegated spiral pattern.

Due to more than five decades of marine climate exposure, however, some of the decorative metal discs have detached and fallen to the ground. Guided by a recent conservation management plan, the project team will conduct a technical study to identify the underlying problem behind the disc detachments and develop conservation protocols for carrying out repairs and maintenance. Because the conservation of modern architecture in Kuwait is an emerging field, the project team will collaborate with international experts and leverage the opportunity to share their research with local Kuwaiti architects, conservators, and engineers.

School trip to the Kuwait Museum – 1970

A couple of years ago I heard rumblings about the fact they were proposing to restore the building with concrete (easier/cheaper) and that many local architects were against it and wanted the restoration to be done properly. Not sure if anything can be done about it now, but at the moment it looks like Kuwait lost another important part of its landscape.

For more information, check out this post on Instagram.

Update: Just got a bit more information. The basement of the palace is the oldest basement in Kuwait, more than 100 years old. Unfortunately, it was removed completely to make way for the concrete intervention. Source

5 replies on “Khazal Palace Altered with Concrete”

But if the palace was originally made from clay, then won’t it deteriorate again? What would be the best solution to restore it so that it can last longer without problem?

I’m not an engineer or architect so I wouldn’t know what the best way to restore it would be, but the palace didn’t deteriorate to its current state because it was made from clay. The palace was destroyed during the invasion and then wasn’t restored or protected hence why it’s the way it is.

I used to pass it by everyday en route to school back in the day when it was still okay to call Carmel School, a convent school which it still is. We had the most amazing location ever for a school – almost on the water’s edge and sandwiched between the British embassy and the Dasman Palace. One could go on looking at the Towers from the classroom window when instruction got boring. Pity they took down some 20 odd two storied villas and moved the Convent school lock stock and barrel to Salwa.

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