Home Do You Know? How the vernacular architecture influenced this modern building?

How the vernacular architecture influenced this modern building?

The Administration Facilities (shown here) at Kuwait University’s Sabah Al-Salem University City is the main gateway to the new campus of Kuwait University founded in 1966. The facility has seven buildings which houses the chief administrative and ceremonial functions of the campus, serving the needs of students, faculty, administrators, and visitors alike. Screens on the outer skins of the building make the structures unique. Do you know what inspired design consultants to opt for such a design?

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and Pace Global Energy Services, LLC are the design consultants of this project. The buildings include a library, a cultural center, a domed performing-arts complex, a mosque, a visitor’s center, a conference center, and a central administration building. Apart from the 72-m tall central administrative building, the structures are all low-rise concrete buildings clad in stone.

Kuwait is considered to be one of the hottest places on earth where summer temperature goes above 60 degrees Celsius. So, the building architects have an additional responsibility in this region while designing the buildings. They have to not only keep the aesthetics of structure in mind but also incorporate elements that protect the inhabitants from the extremes of the climate.

To make this happen, the architects decided to fall back upon the traditional technique of mashrabiya, a traditional Islamic shading screen used in the Middle East as a window screen, although its roots can be traced to shading systems used for porous clay vessels that held water. Screens are used in a similar way as traditional mashrabiya to create these microclimates, which are planted areas with trees and water features that help introduce the sound of water into the environments around the buildings so that people get the kind of psychological impression of coolness in there. Thus, each building is covered by a patterned aluminum and steel screen to create a shaded exterior microclimate. The screens will also protect the buildings from thermal gain.

The pattern of the screen is designed by Farah Bebehani, a Kuwaiti-born artist. The pattern, inspired by the calligraphy, of the each of the buildings’ screen is different. Through a method of abstraction, the use of a traditional script technique and abstraction of text, the screens make reference in kind of subtle, oblique ways to the function of each building.

Each of the seven patterns has been refined depending on each building’s orientation, so that the pattern is denser or more open depending on position. So, one can see more open patterns in the areas that received less direct sun and the more closed patterns in those areas that received more direct sun.

The Consortium of Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership, Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Du Toit Architects Ltd. is the master plan consultant.

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