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Architecture

Kuwait City by night / Photo Shutterstock

Compared to the Emirates and Qatar, Kuwait’s modern architecture is restrained. The most notable cultural landmarks are the Kuwait Towers, dating from the 1970s, designed by the Swedish architects Sune Lindström and Malene Björn. The National Assembly Building, resembling Bedouin tents, is a landmark too, designed by Jørn Utzen, who also did the Sydney Opera House. Opened in 1985, it is distinctive in an another sense as well, being the first parliament building in the Gulf States. The Babtain Public Library is another recently constructed landmark.

Recent construction in Kuwait City has seen the rise of a number of state-of-the-art skyscrapers, the most recent addition being the 412-metre al-Hamra Tower. The impressive tower, now Kuwait’s tallest, is sculpted to minimize solar radiation. Another recent construction, but of a very different kind, is the Sadeeqa Fatima al-Zahra Mosque, opened in 2011. This new Shia mosque in the Abdallah al-Mubarak area, is a copy of the famous Taj Mahal mausoleum in India. Although much smaller than the original, it is a new iconic landmark on the outskirts of Kuwait City.

Despite modern construction, a few examples of architecture from the pre-oil era of Kuwait have survived. Most old houses are along the Arabian Gulf Street in Kuwait City. Beit Dickson was built in 1870 for a Kuwaiti merchant. It has served as the residence of British political agents in Kuwait. The house is an example of a mixture of local and colonial architecture.

Beit al-Sadu, built in 1929, is a mixture of local and Indian architecture. According to the website ArchOfKuwait, Beit Sadu is Kuwait’s earliest house built of cement and concrete. Since 1979, it houses an exhibition on the art of Bedouin weaving.

The historic Sheikh Mubarak Kiosk next to the Souq Mubarakiya in Kuwait City has recently been renovated. In the early 20th century the Kiosk served as Mubarak al-Sabah’s (al-Kabir) office, where he collected toll, controlled trade through camel caravans and consulted with the people. Sheikh Mubarak built two kiosks in the area, of which the southern was used in the morning and the northern in the afternoon. Another historical building is the al-Qibliya School for Girls, in the Qibla area in Kuwait City. Originally built as a house in 1942-1943, it was converted into a girls’ school. Constructed from sea brick, mud, bamboo and wood imported from India and East Africa, it collapsed in 1945 due to significant rainfall. The National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature renovated the building and reopened it in 2001.

Traditional architecture

Modern architecture

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