Reclaiming Modern Architecture:
An Urban Visual Narrative of Kuwait City

For a city to be remembered, to be successful, to be desired, a distinct connection has to be made between the city-dweller and the city itself. In 1938 Kuwait transformed from a town that relied on trade into a single resource exporter of oil, fueling a booming modern economy.  The influx of the automobile and modern solutions to Western ways of living would forever change the city. In the speed of these developments, critical aspects of city planning such as the pedestrian and the harsh desert climate were overlooked.  Kuwait began to lose a connection between the city and its people. With the rise and spread of Western Modernism during this time, Kuwait City adopted a new medium of architectural expression that disregarded much of its former patterns of a heterogeneous urban fabric, and abandoning intricate street networks that produced social relations amongst the people and a sense of community. ¹ In The Charged Void: Urbanism, Alison and Peter Smithson argued that “Kuwaitis abandoned an older cohesive order and replaced it with a fragmented one which is in no way Arab.”²   In no building is this more apparent than in the so-called ‘Souk’ Al Manakh.   Built as a ‘modern souk’, Souk Al Manakh would likely fall under the category of mixed-use, using polite terms.  Realistically however, it is closer to a chimera: multiple building types wishfully combined to form an ideal that falls short of each ambition.  In essence a modified parking garage, it runs against the grain in that the top story is an office, while the two lowest stories are retail.  Neither function as intended.  Designed under the guise of Modernism, this failure is a rallying cry for a larger conversation about continued development in Kuwait City that takes into account the realities of place. Like many cities, Kuwait suffers the remnants of unintended urban void after careless redevelopment. One way of addressing these issues is reinvigorating the notion of monument, or a destination to which people actually desire to go.  The life of a city is ultimately the life of the pedestrian.  How we reach certain places and what we do once we are there define the urban experience.  Equally important is the network of paths and directions to and from these places and ultimately between the people themselves.  Manakh, in Arabic, means climate as well as market. By extending the historical souk into the Souk Al Manakh and reintegrating the two, a commercial destination will be formed through a series of weaving ramps where people from all parts of the city can engage with one another and the city itself through a new journey that reveals an urban visual narrative of Kuwait City.

Souk Al Manakh
Rhode Island School of Design
Kuwait City, Kuwait

“Building As  a Destination”

To reactivate the building, the building will become a new destination by extending the souk.
 Percentage of the existing parking will be retained to provide parking for the existing office space. I am proposing three additional programs. A streetscape to extend the pedestrian experience of the street into the building. Walking is a big part of urban city life, which has been lost and not integrated in Kuwait. Social plaza, referencing urban plazas. This program will create spaces to increase social interactions between people. Again since street life in the city does not exist, my hopes is to bring back that type of city interaction into the building itself. Lastly, is to create an extension of the souk and providing a commercial destination.

Yara Hadi
(401) 340-8611