Pictures: Kuwait Cultural Centre by BDP

BDP has shared images of its recently commissioned cultural centre in Sabah Al Ahmad, a new city for 2,500 people in the Kuwaiti desert.

The firm was appointed by the Public Authority of Housing Welfare (PAHW) to design a landmark building for the new settlement.

According to the practice, the centre will offer an “inspirational home for a wide range of cultural activities” and includes a gallery, museum, theatre, screening room, conference centre and children’s theatre.


A sunken garden space, termed the ‘cultural oasis’, is accessed via deeply shaded ravines through the main plinth. Shielded from the heat, the oasis contains 4,000m2 of water-filled public meeting, exhibition and leisure space, a number of pavilions containing restaurants and retail and a possible100-seat planetarium.

Envisaged as a distinctly Kuwaiti building, the billowing forms pay homage to the Arabian dhow sailing boat. Project director Richard McDowell said: “A key driver for us is the desire to create a new centre with a sense of place, a timeless edifice that acts as a focal point for the new city of Sabah Al Ahmad but that also fulfils the role of a spiritual heart space in the city.”

A latticework patterned roof structure is supported on tree-like timber columns which spring from the base of the oasis floor. The columns support ‘lily pads’ of varying sizes which help shade the space below in the vein of traditional Bedouin tents. In the evening the pads are uplit with varying coloured lights to provide an artificial sky.

The central garden will be sheltered from the prevailing hot winds and sand storms by a plateaux buildings arrangement. Ventilation towers situated at the edges of the site will harness wind and provide preconditioned fresh air to the central space and buildings via a ventilation earth tube strategy.

Evaporative cooling towers will utilise recycled and treated grey water from the buildings. An ‘intelligent’ canopy in the central garden will provide shade and harness solar energy when integrated with photovoltaic panels. The thermal mass offered by a heavyweight building envelope will help to absorb heat during the day .

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