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The evolution of Kuwait's domestic architecture, and empirical and theoretical study

Al-Bahar, HH; (1990) The evolution of Kuwait's domestic architecture, and empirical and theoretical study. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The discovery of oil in Kuwait in the second quarter of this century was an historic event which entailed major transformations in the economic status of the state. In addition to the fundamental changes in the social structure, the dramatic, almost overnight economic metamorphosis triggered a process of rapid urban growth unparalleled anywhere in the world. The domestic built environment expressed the most visible imprints of the country's striking urban development. This thesis attempts to examine the evolution of Kuwait's domestic forms in the context of the evolving economic, political, social, technological and urban parameters. Within the general framework of the Pre-Oil and the Post-Oil periods, an empirical and a theoretical perspective is adopted whereby spatial and representational changes in house form are studied as the material realisations of underlying socio -cultural principles. It is proposed that by wedding Hillier e_t_ al's syntactic theory and methodology for spatial analysis with Glassie's ideas on representational analysis, the social logic of spatial and formal evolution in Kuwait's domestic architecture could be understood. T h e empirical evidence of this investigation is also used to propose an evolutionary theoretical model within which the tempo and mode of architectural change could be conceptualised. The extreme stylistic eclecticity of the upper-income or private-villa type of residential building, where domestic design preferences can be freely expressed, renders the selection of this category of houses as opposed to the government-sponsored houses, the most suitable for t h e analytical objectives of this study. The data base consists of over one hundred houses which include the only available traditional Kuwaiti dwellings on record, and a sample of Post-Oil houses which date from the late 1950's through 1985. The study concludes that the radical differences in spatial and representational forms between the multi-courtyard traditional houses and their multi-level modern counterparts are primarily due to the fundamental differences in the underlying socio-cultural forms in both societies. For example, whereas spatial and representational forms in the traditional dwellings were primarily governed by the structured mechanisms of differential solidarity between males and females, which it is argued constituted class differences in the Pre-Oil society, spatial and representational forms in the modern houses are governed mainly by class differences between Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis at the global level of society, and by a number of other cultural rules at the local level of the household. Despite the eclecticity of exterior representation in Kuwait's modern houses, the configuration of the modern plan layouts remains relatively stable over time, and irrespective of the differential rates of spatial and formal evolution where representational changes have occurred at a much faster rate than spatial developments, the spatial and the formal realities in Kuwait's houses are structured by the same socio-cultural principles, at least at the global level of society. And it is only by retrieving and comprehending the nature of these underlying rules which are constituted in socio-cultural forms that an understanding of the evolution of Kuwaiti domestic architecture in particular, and house form in general could be achieved.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The evolution of Kuwait's domestic architecture, and empirical and theoretical study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10125145
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