Traditional and contemporary educational design unite

Kerry Boettcher
Wednesday 06 May 2015

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, in association with Pace has been appointed to design the administration facilities at Kuwait University’s new campus

The new administration facilities will be the main gateway to the brand new Sabah Al-Salem University City, housing the main administrative functions. It will be a centre to serve the needs of students, faculty, administrators and visitors. 

At the heart of the building is a performing arts theatre, which also functions as a space for events such as graduations. Dubbed ‘the Pearl’ this impressive ovoid structure is surrounded by the central library, administration building, grand mosque, conference centre, cultural centre, and the visitor’s centre. 

Totalling nearly three million square feet, the facilities needed to create a unified architectural language for seven buildings with distinctly different programmatic requirements, whilst reflecting the local vernacular architects. 

They also needed to take into consideration the harsh desert climate of Kuwait City, so the design team devised a system of unifying shading screens. The light, lacy screens envelope each building, creating an ephemeral play of light and shadow throughout the campus. The screens shade the structure and help promote a cooler micro-climate zone around each structure. This soft perimeter will extend the space of each facility outward to create a lush garden environment with filtered light, native plants, and water features.

The shaded areas connect the boundaries between the interior spaces, where students and staff can stop for a chat, and share ideas with one another. As well as promoting social interaction and serving as a passive means of restricting solar heat gain, the shading screens are also a structural achievement.

Evoking vernacular architecture, this building is rooted in traditional culture, yet distinctly contemporary in its forward-thinking design. It will become an impressive entry to Kuwait University.

Kerry Boettcher

News editor

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