First Master Plan

Kuwait has seen tremendous growth and change since the 1950s under several different master plans. In the process, much of “Old Kuwait” has been destroyed. The first master plan phase lasted from 1950 to the mid 1960s. In Acquiring Modernity, Hassan Hayat writes, “a year after taking power in 1950, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah commissioned British town planners to transform Kuwait. Upon the discovery of oil, Kuwait’s modern identity emerged. The Amir had a strong sense of the growth that would be driven by oil revenues. The government assessed the old city’s homes, compensating owners with parcels of land and currency to build homes in the new suburbs. As the city and its wall were torn down to pave the way for automobiles, the old town became unrecognizable.” In her work Kuwait Transformed, Farah Al-Nakib tells us that during the first master plan, Fahad al-Salem Street became the first part of the new city developed with a certain amount of site planning. The thoroughfare was built from Sahat al-Safat to Jahra Gate. In 1960, Fahad al-Salem was the only street in Kuwait that was completely paved. In the process of developing the street, 294 old houses were demolished and the land was sold off to private developers to construct buildings to line the street. When one walks along the street today, you can see the mix of past and present.

Two buildings along Fahad al-Salem that were built during the first master plan are the Thunayan Al-Ghanim Building and the Anwaar Al-Sabah buildings. According to Modern Architecture Kuwait, the Thunayan Al-Ghanim building was completed in 1959. They write, “the location and plot geometry facing Jahra Gate at the entrance to the first modern avenue in the city, Fahad-Al Salem, was and still is a fundamental condition for the complex display. With this, the first multi-storey building in Kuwait, the important local Al-Ghanim family began their involvement in construction and development.” Here are some photos of the building throughout the years.

Down the street are the Anwaar Al-Sabah buildings, which have visibly deteriorated. There are reports that they’ve been purchased in order to be demolished. According to Abdulraouf Murad, they were built in the 1960s atop a football field known as the Qibly Field. Some of the children who lived in the complex attended the Aisha Primary School, which is currently protected and apparently will be restored. You can see these three buildings on google maps below. Aisha School isn’t listed but is directly across from the Kuwait Institute for Judicial & Legal Studies, you can see photos inside of the old school on the blog of Maha Alessa.

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