Friday, November 13, 2009

SAM St. (Salem Al-Mubarak Street) - Initial Analysis & Proposals...

A birdseye view of SAM St. (core image sourced from Google Earth)...


This submission was initially posed on the smArchitecture blog, but as it has a direct bearing on Kuwait I thought it would also be appropriate to include here...

In collaboration with the members of the re:kuwait blog (architects Barrak Al-Babtain, Jasem Nadoum and Amenah Benjasem) as well as architect Aisha Al-Sager, I've been exploring the idea of pedestrianizing and revitalizing Salem Al-Mubarak Street (SAM St.) in Salmiya. The focus here is on the commercial stretch of the street, between the Fourth Ring Road and the Al-Salam Complex (the cylindrical, now former, residential building at its western end; more pictures of this in a future post). The collaboration began after much 'tooing-and frowing' between the parties various blogs, where we all were lamenting about the various urban, with a particular focus on the ambulatory, shortcomings of Kuwait in comparison to other, even regional, locations. These virtual communiques eventually turned into an actual meeting between the above mentioned individuals at a local coffee-shop, where a number of options were discussed for what and how something could be done to improve the situation. We eventually decided to focus on Salem Al-Mubarak street, which seemed to have the right 'bones' (foundations) to develop into a pedestrianized area. The ultimate aim is to do a, or a set of, short videos and perhaps a publication dealing with various aspects of urbanism in Kuwait.

Below are some of the initial musings (slides from the lecture), introduced for the first time at Wednesday's presentation at DAI (thanks everyone for coming, it was fun!). They were here used in conjunction (as a linked design to) the Kuwait School Manifesto's maxim number eight, which suggests that Kuwait could/ should be developed as the Design Capital of the Middle-East, something that's not too far fetched as, in comparison to Kuwait's neighbours which all have well developed plans to enhance their cultural standings but which none, however, have laid a particular emphasis on design, opening up a potential niche for how Kuwait could distinguish itself. As Kuwait already has a skilled craft-based workforce this should be something that is already implementable, all it will require is a set of dedicated designers (be these designers of products, furniture, buildings or cities) and a sustained doze of faith and perseverance. The SAM Street proposal could be the first physical manifestation of such aspirations.

If needed, please 'click' on the images to enlarge them...


Existing

A brief analysis of some of the existing features and conditions which apply to SAM Street.


Features/ Elements...


The landmark Al-Salam Complex at the western end of SAM St., currently being demolished...

A stretch of three storey office buildings, are also in the process of being demolished...

The street has an extended row of, seemingly self-sustaining, shade providing (at least three decades old) trees, stretching all along its commercial fronts...

SAM St. also retains a well proportioned set of mixed-use residential buildings, with retail premises on the ground level and residential units above...

There are a number of, somewhat unfortunate, developments being erected adjacent to the street...

Panorama view of the street's western stretch...

A cross-section taken of SAM Street's eastern, a bit narrower, end...


Plans...


The vehicular areas of SAM Street...

The sidewalks of SAM Street (note how much more pedestrianized areas there is in comparison to street area allocated for cars - a condition quite unique for Kuwait)...

Car parking on SAM Street (which, in turn, is surprisingly sparse compared to other comparable locales in Kuwait)...

The open areas along and adjacent to SAM Street...

The native (seemingly non-attended) trees along SAM Street...

The main access points to SAM Street...

The traffic routes and directions along SAM Street...


Proposed...


The aim is to pedestrianize the whole commercial/ retail stretch of SAM Street, something that lends itself quite naturally to this street, which, with its mirrored back-to-back u-turns, cannot be used as a vehicular thoroughfare (as can be observed in the image above this one)...

One of the proposals involves putting a university (a design school/ research institution?!) at one end of SAM St. as an anchor tenant. This is not too much of a stretch as there has already been proposals to provide a number of additional state universities to Kuwait, and it would be a dynamic way to breathe new life into this part of town.

Another appropriate (quasi) anchor tenant would be to provide dormitories and residential units at the other (eastern) end of the stretch. This would create a natural circulation for the area...

The stretch between the two nodes would be filled with more communal elements - various cultural (galleries, theatres, film screens...), dining (restaurants, coffee-shops...) and retail (with emphasis one more unique and individual 'speciality' stores)...

As a collective, the institutes of higher learning and in combination with the communal open and public areas, the neighbourhood would hopefully develop into a creative hub for the city...

Eventually it would be great to (gradually) expand the pedestrianized areas and link them to some of the other key nodes in Salmiya, such as the beach, Marina Mall (less than a 5 minute walk away) and the remains of the western end of Salem Al Mubarak Street (by Al Fanar and Sultan Center), as well as (as noted by re:kuwait) the future Salmiya Park...

2 comments:

Mark said...

it all sounded like a good idea until i got to the part where you demolished my apartment building and put a university instead. Not cool. The idea is to make Salmiya nicer "around me" not kick me out lol.

Thomas said...

Hi Mark,

Who said anything about demolishing..? The existing buildings could be re-appropriated and used by the university without excessive destruction. There are countless cases where existing buildings are re-configured, and on occasionally added to, in order to accommodate a new function. Many of the urban university campuses at which I studied (both in downtown New York (Parsons) and in London's Bloomsbury (AA) and Knightsbridge (RCA)) were located withing buzzing mixed-use neighborhoods. I was kind of envisaging SAM St. as a Kuwaiti rendition of these...
Architects such as Carlo Scarpa, Sverre Fehn and Lina Bobardi, to mention a few, all did some very seductive interventions and mixes/ changes of use into existing buildings...

But, if this folly of a hypothetical project would for some reason ever go forward, I promise you, as a representative of the locals, will be amongst the first ones we consult regarding the do's & do not's on SAM Street...

Tom