Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kuwait's Renovations (AKA another reason to complain about corruption & stall everything)

Jaber Al Ahmed Hospital
Everyone's noticed how the landscape in Downtown Kuwait has changed over the last year or so. New, high-rise office buildings, new hotels, Kuwait Business Town, Arraya's expansion, etc...all towards building a true financial district. This happens, of course, without preparing the emergency services (Fire Brigade, Ambulance, etc) with the proper equipment, like long ladder trucks!



On the other hand, remember how the "Tarsheed" campaign gained momentum, with all the phone calls, fliers, newspaper, TV and Radio ads, even road-side billboards, the whole 9 yards? I remember just driving around Kuwait City some time on an evening, and see all those high-rise buildings within the financial district, spending all that electricity in their empty office buildings.
Kuwait International Airport

I would be interested to know how come no one is bothering with calling up the owners and ask them to switch off those lights?! More to the point, why doesn't the Municipality consider these running lights as a municipal offense and invoke some sort of penalty onto the offenders? That money could easily go to useful projects (or gets funneled through to the corrupted, either way, it's a pain on the offender!). It's a no-brainer...if only the people in Kuwait's Municipality knew what a brain was to begin with!

Urban planning and new architecture is all good, I'm sure, and will definitely propel Kuwait City into the limelight as a shining star of architectural design once again, in competition with the other new
Silk City, Kuwait
kids on the block, like Doha, Dubai, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. But so far, it's spearheaded by private entities and semi-government institutions with deep pockets and far-reaching networking roots.

Larger, more ambitious projects like the Silk City are not picking up momentum as expected because (a) The adequate infrastructure to support & sustain them hasn't been in place yet, and (b) There's too much corruption to properly plan for everything without going over-budget. Consequently, Mega-projects like Jaber Al Ahmed Hospital, Al Shadadiya University and Sh. Jaber Causeway are still works in progress.

In my personal opinion, however, Kuwait's Planners (if any) should consider 'how and where' to compete, and not just compete. Any city can build tall buildings laid with double-paned glass exteriors, but not any city has the right mindset and ordnances to build a green, high-tech skyscraper. More to the point, new buildings like Al Hamra Tower should be supported by the right Civil services, like adequate Fire Fighting equipment, nearby paramedic facilities, well-designed roads and public transport routes, etc..

Al Hamra Tower
That is definitely NOT what Kuwait City has today, and I'm not hearing any future plans to develop these services anytime in the future, save the newly-introduced Air Ambulance Service. On top of all that, the planners desperately need to manage road traffic a lot better than how it is now.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day on this very same subject. My friend thinks that London's traffic, while congested, is still much more managed than Kuwait's'. While somewhat true, I argued that it's mostly to do with the fact that Kuwait's roads are based on a grid system, while London's streets are abstract geographic wiggles and parallels, with intersecting by-roads and motorways that help on-load and off-load traffic.

The way I see it, in the former system, choke points occur when two or more roads intersect, and that's where traffic occurs, naturally compounding exponentially backwards from the point of occurrence. In the latter, by-roads help with circumventing traffic, thereby reducing pressure on the main road arteries, consequently helping the traffic flow more smoothly.  Ironically, Kuwait city has a road system that's similar to London's, but is connected form all directions to a grid system, and that means whenever an accident occurs on the First Ring road, for example, traffic will extend all the way back to the Fifth Ring road.
An Example of what Government Buildings
look like in Kuwait

I'm tired of all the tacky 'block' type buildings that are basically nothing more than concrete boxes five or six stories tall, with small, square or rectangular windows and arc-themed concrete fences. Why does a government building have to look boring and so 'communist'. One look at one of those  Citizen Services Centers that are operated by the Ministry of Interior around Kuwait and you cant help but feel a sense of Socialist comradeship kicking in!

I'm fairly confident that things will eventually end up for the best, and that all the nonsense over corruption and misappropriation of government funds would gradually erode away, leaving room for more open ideas, more daring designs and better urban planning. It's just a matter of time, and one can only be hopeful, I suppose.

By the way, every picture in this post, except for the last two, is - to date - a work in progress!


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