The Gulf Bank Building

I recently got this print and tote bag from Raw Eco. The work is entitled “Kuwait’s Forgotten Modernity” and features fifteen different buildings built between the 50s and 90s. With the exception of the al-Ahmadi cinema, I believe all of them are still standing (I’m having trouble finding information about the KU Engineering School or the Hilton Hotel Apartments). I’ve posted about the Fatima Mosque in the Abdullah Al-Salem neighborhood and the Hassawi Complex in Hawally. Another building featured in the piece is the Gulf Bank headquarters. In 1960, the government of Kuwait hired Palestinian-American architect Saba George Shiber in the Ministry of Public Works. Farah Al-Nakib writes that, “Shiber’s main criticism when he arrived on the scene was against the intrusion of foreign ‘experts’ he felt had led Kuwait down the wrong path of urban development. He lamented the destruction of the organically formed pre-oil town and its replacement with abstract planning and architectural influences that had no place, precedent, or purpose in Kuwait or the Arab world. Shiber decided to use Kuwait’s own urban past… his main contribution was the development of a new central business district (CBD) in the heart of the city. Beginning in April 1961, the government acquired land in the CBD to be demolished, replanned, and sold to the private sector. Only half of Shiber’s CBD plan was ever implemented. After the plan was halted in 1965, Shiber left Kuwait.” According to the book Modern Architecture Kuwait, the Gulf Bank headquarters was “designed in 1963 by British architects, it follows Shiber’s regulations and urban guidelines for the Central Business District commercial areas.” You can see a photograph below of how the building originally looked, and how it looks today after being expanded onto. This article states that, “Gulf Bank’s iconic building stands out on the Kuwaiti architectural landscape due to its outer façade. The design was inspired by the sea, using ‘accropode’ type structures which are designed to resist the actions of waves.” Below you can also see an image of accropodes along the beach outside Seif Palace. “The Bank’s outer façade provides a solution to the country’s harsh climate conditions by providing shading from sun exposure and heat, in addition to being uniquely inspired by marine elements used by protection of break waters.” As the Danish explorer Barclay Raunkiær said in 1913, “Kuwait is emphatically a town of the desert and the sea” which the architecture of this building beautifully references.

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