Anonymous Neighbors

By April 21, 2010 7 Comments

I admit that the following exercise is almost comically biased, but I think it serves well to illustrate the point i’m always trying to make. People have become anonymous within their own neighborhoods and mosques have become the only place where a strong sense of community persists. What can we do to change that? Here is what I feel Kuwait could and should be like. Let’s follow two fictional people, Dalal and Faisal, through a Kuwaiti residential neighborhood as it is and how I imagine it could be:

Bad urbanism affects not only the way our neighborhoods look, but it also deeply affects our sociological and environmental well being. We devolved as a society because we stopped caring about the design of our neighborhoods and accepted our built environment as just the way things are. This brutal ignorance has to stop. So what can we do?

  • We need to give urban designers and landscape architects a much stronger voice in planning neighborhoods and communities. The people in charge of planning Kuwait City are bored engineers. They might mean well, but they simply don’t have the tools required to understand the needs of life beyond what they already know. We need to replace them with energetic and knowledgeable young urban designers and give them the authority and responsibility to reshape our city.
  • To do that we need to graduate lots of urban designers. This profession is different (but related) to architecture. There is a drought of urban design talent in Kuwait and we need to remedy this as soon as possible.
  • All residential neighborhoods require a nearby third place to give people someplace to walk to. People who gather there are members of the community, not random people from far away that you find in a mall.
  • Walkable communities need to be anchored by a mosque, which would act as the catalyst of pedestrian urban development. A park/mosque/library hybrid should be attempted.
  • Trees, trees, trees. Shade and fresh air.
  • Sidewalks are more important than street width. If the roads aren’t safe, kids won’t play, and if they do it’s dangerous.

You can find more ideas here. Kuwait has so much potential to be a great place to live. Let’s not waste our resources on mega-projects that benefit a few people while neglecting the immediate environment where we spend most of our time. We deserve better and we should do our best to make it better for ourselves and for our children.

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • In case any of you are wondering, Dalal left her government job and now runs a small flower shop that is right next to the spa. That’s another benefit of mixed-use neighborhoods. People have the option of working near where they live.

  • Tom says:

    Well said Barrak…
    And a great, public (jargon free) way of communicating the message…

  • Bareeq Al Ghannam says:

    Great holistic thinking…wish we had more people with your perspective in this country..

  • G says:

    In the words of a much wiser woman, “I want to go to there.”

  • Thanks Tom.
    Bareeq, there are lots of people with great ideas and the energy to do something with their talent. The challenge is to put those people in positions where we can best utilize them and not stifle their passion and creativity.
    G, I don’t think it’s her kind of place. Too many healthy and happy people would make her feel sick.

  • q8life says:

    Very nice thoughts and observations. I think you need to be on the City Planning board.
    Or else, even if make the sidewalks wider, they will eventually be used as parking spots.
    Considering the climate, the walking spaces need to be lined with trees and covered by shade.
    Keep up the good work.

  • […] This video encapsulates almost everything i’m trying to achieve on re:kuwait in terms of transit oriented development and more walkable neighborhoods. It shows in a very concise and simple way how we can create the sort of neighborhoods that I describe in posts such as this. […]

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