I am sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Kuwait City. I am enjoying my cup of coffee while browsing the net, checking my timeline on twitter, and gazing out to the street. The sight from where I’m sitting shows how far the city went towards the sky. Shiny skyscrapers are popping up at every corner, competing against each other and seeking attention. A variety of complex tall structures looks impressive for those who aren’t trained to differentiate between good architecture and bad. It also reflects how we as a society view development in the 21st century. It’s printed in our minds that taller buildings means a rich, modern, sophisticated country, yet that can not be further from the truth.
Unfortunately, as I continue to gaze and take a deeper look towards the streets, it shows how poor we are in urban design. Our streets are anti-pedestrian, anti-automobile, and simply anti-human. Nothing in our urban fabric is connected other than the pavements of the street and the sidewalks. almost no vegetation, no urban furniture, no proper signage, and no amenities to be seen anywhere. I will not even discuss the fact that there aren’t enough parking for all the cars that are starting to block the roads and create traffic jams. The city is being experienced by the car only, which is a shame.
This, however, wasn’t the case all the time. Back in the 1960’s while Kuwait experienced a boom in construction till the early 1980’s, trees where everywhere, urban furniture was placed properly on both sides of the street, and public amenities where available. Enough parking spaces were also available according to the capacity of surrounding buildings, that the building codes allowed back in the day.
We are reaching high to the sky, looking upwards, feeling mighty, only to ignore where we stand. This is bound to fail and will eventually collapse. We need to re-think, re-imagine, re-cycle our city for proper usage. We need to think of our selves as users of our biggest city as human beings not as automated vehicles. I think how we treat our streets and how we connect the different parts of the city is what makes us truly a rich society. From where I’m sitting I see a lot of potential for creating a true urban life in the city, if only we can shift our focus from the heavens and be humble enough to look at where we stand.