New Kuwait Sports Shooting Club by Office dA

A domestic canopy for the public realm


All images, plans and information courtesy of office dA; © by office dA; please note detailed credits at the end of this article

NEW KUWAIT SPORTS SHOOTING CLUB: a domestic canopy for the public realm

The design of the Kuwait Shooting Club expansion involved a close inspection of the evolution of the current cultural conditions in the Middle East, and in particular Kuwait. At once, a culture steeped in its history and religion, Kuwait is also a modern society that only became urbanized in the 20th century after centuries of nomadic tribes roamed the region. This has translated into curious cultural hybrids, whereby western and middle-eastern traditions and rituals –and their corresponding architecture– have come as to characterize their cultural landscape. For this project, we sought to examine the alliance -and formal affinity-between two types of architecture from which a third may be born. First we studied contemporary typologies without which this project could not be launched-modern construction techniques, health and safety parameters, state-of-the-art amenities as well as the relevant zoning and development restrictions. For the other perspective, we examined typologies specific to the region, recognizing that Kuwaiti culture has been influenced equally over the past centuries by forces from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, among other places. At the same time, we sought to identify elements that could connect the research to its urbanism, its history and its people in specific ways. Thus, beyond traditional iconographic analysis, the focus of this exercise was to invoke a cultural connection that is deeper and that can comment on spatial, typological and programmatic aspects.


PROGRAMMING: from separation to integration
The site enjoys a prominent location next to the highway that joins Kuwait to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, fronting the New Kuwait Sports Shooting Club. As such, it will act as the new façade — or ‘identity’– for these facilities, and its program will invariably act as its main recreational and social support. With a footprint of 100,000 square meters, the site offers different opportunities for development, and as such we try to orchestrate a strategic level of programmatic mix and interchange. At the core of the philosophy of this submission, then, is the idea that instead of divided or single-programmed subdivisions, the scheme can draw from the richness of programmatic layering, mixed-use functions, and multiple activities to sponsor a lively and economically diverse urban environment. With this in mind, much of our programming work has been dedicated to analyzing site proximities, ideal programmatic adjacencies, and hybrid possibilities with the idea that the proposal must cater to activities to varied constituencies, varied activities in day and night time, and varied scales of events.

We have carefully examined the scale of the site as a vehicle for its analysis. Larger than a traditional plot for a conventional piece of architecture, but smaller than a district that can sponsor urban design, the dimension of the site straddles any conventional interpretation of these two disciplines. With the idea of maximizing the FAR, while also creating a dense multi-use zone, we set as our goal the idea of creating a strategy that is both socially and environmentally sustainable.

The idea is to create programs that attract different activities for varied constituencies at different daily, weekly, and monthly cycles. This way, the district is strategized to remain lively, dense, and inhabited for a range of events, creating a fiscal strategy that takes advantage of the sites proximity to the Sports Club– while also creating other ‘magnets’ that will bring people to the site. Included in the public program is retail, commercial, conference/convention center, arena for sports, concerts, or theater, an aquatic spa center, as well as a Cineplex. It is important to note that while this site will have its own autonomy, it will invariably act as the frontispiece for the Sports Shooting Club and give the club a public face.

Maybe the most salient characteristic of the proposal, then is the manner in which the scale of the program is manipulated in relation to the scale of its architecture. If the site had been developed as a master plan, of streets, building guidelines, set backs, and general characteristics, it would certainly have produced a miniature district -something unsustainable, both economically and urbanistically. With a length of 2/3 kilometer, Site A is a bit longer than two New York City blocks, the new Convention Center in Boston, or the COEX center in Seoul. This is to say that while representing a significant size, it does not offer a great scale as a district; moreover, it is a parcel that can be more reasonably developed as a single but multi-programmed entity.


The basic organization of the proposal can be described by four decks of varied thickness and geometries. Beneath the ground level, there is a parking deck, which supports service deliveries, mechanical space, and technical support equipment for various programs. The ground level is characterized by an undulating public surface, supporting the main functions of the arena, convention hall, souk/mall, aqua center and hotel lobby; the surface dips and rises in accordance with the programs (i.e. swimming areas and the arena), but also in relation to the extended public zones (i.e. the commercial level atop the souks or the indoor oasis).This undulation acts as a landscape extending the desert into the building, drawing on the dunes, its oasis, and endless field through the public zones. The public ground is covered with a singular and extended canopy: a coffered structure that accommodates blended programs, circulation itineraries, structural mandates, and vertical cores.

The identity of the proposal, is in great part the result of this invention-a large ‘carpet’ or the canopy of a great banyan tree, giving shade to the public zones and protecting the ground from the sweltering Kuwaiti heat. Though undulating, this canopy is based on a conventional grid, drawing from a more repetitive layout of residential units that coffer as the fourth layer of this system. The housing forms a two-storey crust to the canopy, excavated to draw light and air into the courtyards, as well as allowing the passage of light into the public spaces beneath.
While the main program of the site is composed of public functions on the ground plane, we propose to reinforce the activities of the multi-use environment by adding residential units on the upper levels. Philosophically, we propose an integrated urban environment, where living, working, and entertainment, can benefit from a calibrated proximity to each other. Contrary to dominant modern or development paradigms, where districts are separated by zoning, functions, and uses, we propose a more cross-bred environment where alliances between programs may foster better living conditions, while offering a better economical strategy for the district as a development plan.


The residential component of the program will take the form of a canopy that floats above the public ground, giving it shade and environmental protection, while also permitting the passage of light to the base through its courtyards. This single act organizes the site in the most telling way, informing its environmental, structural and social strategy.

The residences will offer the site a form of daily life, and its inhabitants will use the amenities of the multi-use district as part of their own facilities. In this way, the local community reinforces the ‘pro forma’ by offering a more permanent fiscal foundation for the enterprise.

The residences are treated as deluxe units, each with their own open space, a courtyard that gives the house ample natural light, air, and a private view. In turn, the houses are organized in a ‘matte” formation, a dense but private grid that hovers 10 meters above the ground giving shade to the public space beneath. The courtyard configurations are set up as independent houses, but their adjacency permits 2 or 3 units to be merged -for when extended families want to live in closer proximity in a series of connected courtyards.

The residences are accessed in two ways. First, there is direct vehicular access to each unit by way of a matrix of streets that rise up to the 10 meter level via a fast ramp in the garage. Also, each house has private parking spots in the basement level with direct private access to elevator cores that link them to each residential pod above ground. The residential ground plane is, then, characterized by several types of open space. Its streets are semi public access-ways for its residents, open both to vehicles and pedestrians. Walkways connect these streets to collective courtyards that organize four residential pods. These spaces act as a common ground for the residents, where kids may play of people may stroll. Larger collective gardens organize each residential pod, giving every eight houses an intermediary space that is controlled exclusively for their use. In turn, each house has its own courtyard onto which its own program opens, with absolute privacy.


Spatial Predicaments: between typology and continuity
One of the topics of current architectural discussions deals with the production of identity. Mired in debates about function, performance, and contingencies, questions of imagery, iconography, and visuality come with a certain sense of guilt or unease. At the same time, maybe no moment in history has seen such an explosion of images– in media, on the internet, and also in architecture. For this reason, this project takes on the relationship between techniques, architectural opportunities, and aesthetic effects head on as a vehicle to ‘imagine’ a new architecture for Kuwait.

At once invested in the history of Kuwait, we are equally devoted to the advancement and evolution of its culture through architecture, design, and technology. For this reason, we see this proposal at the cross road of a very productive set of “complexities and contradictions.” The techniques we work with are varied but aim at a consistent confrontation with the cultural conditions so prevalent in this context.

First, the aesthetic effect is directly connected to the negotiation between function and type. Insofar as certain functions (theaters, housing, shops) have certain performance criteria, we have interpreted them through the familiar lense of typology, transforming each type in discreet ways, while leaving intact certain longstanding configurations and patterns of organization. As such, we have researched souks for the shops, courtyard houses for the residential, and more recent movie house organizations for the theater-plex-creating an allusive link between building organization, memory, and effect. However, given the innate differences between the scale, geometry, and aggregative properties of these types, our role was to orchestrate a new way of reconciling their differences: in essence, inventing a new connective tissue to bring together these disparate elements into a new urban ensemble. In this ensemble, the various types range from new state-of-the-art halls, to deeply rooted local types, and the character of the proposal emerges from the grafting of the two together.


Second, the aesthetic effect emerges from a more direct confrontation with the advent of geometry and patterning as displayed in Kuwaiti history, though implemented in abstract and allusive ways. Since each building type manifests a need for its own autonomous organization, form, and figure, there is no universal geometry to bring together the various fragments. To this end, we identify the appropriate geometry for each type, based on the figural biases they display: circle for the arena, triangle for the theater, and square for courtyards, among others. The way in which these geometries are brought together is unique: instead of typological aggregation or fragmentation, we assemble the dissonant geometries through the technique of metamorphosis, grafting together a wide range of irreconcilable types. As a technique, this is deployed by the transformation of geometric cells onto which we keep adding vertices. Thus, for instance, square cell may be altered by the additions of two vertices to create a hexagon, and in turn negotiate the transition of a square courtyard type and a radial arena. The precise orchestration of plan typologies and a correspondent structural condition creates an opportunity to maintain the seamlessness of an organic geometric logic while permitting typlogical diversity and heterogenieity.


Third, the aesthetic effect is brought by the adoption of and reaction to local materials, climate, landscapes, and textures-again adopted as allusive signifiers of the regional flavor. Sand, stone, local flora, shading devices and a range of other devices are brought together in a contemporary context, reinterpreting cultural conventions towards new ends.


The structure in this typology is not independent of the architecture. In point of fact, the scale of the programming allows the structure to inform the specificity of the architectural shape. The structure is analogous to the sponge-like form and material-to-weight ratio of human bone: a trabecular structure in which material is concentrated efficiently in response to the applied, or anticipated, loading while minimizing weight (Wolf’s law for human anatomy). What appears random in bone, or as mass customization at the scale of building structures, is in fact an efficient use of materials: provide material for strength and stiffness where it is needed most and reduce the material quantity in areas where it is not needed. This can be provided as distinct, crisp changes in material cross section or in a more sinuous nature as proposed here. A system possible and necessary in an economy where labor is available and inexpensive, traditional paradigms of construction such as unions are not prevalent and world wide material cost is the driving economic hindrance to building construction. In areas of high moments, shears, or in response to concerns of serviceability, the form of the slab system morphs from a typical, orthogonal, uniform depth rib system into a system of deeper ribs, wider ribs, and/or more closely spaced ribs. The changing shape responds to the intensity of the loading and the need to provide strength and stiffness to the system.


The ground plane of the site is decisively public. Access to this ground plane is organized along the north and south edges of the site. A long drop off area for all public programs is situated on the south edge of the site, taking advantage of its logical connection to the highway. A linear parking is organized along the entire northern edge of the site, and various cores and stair connect visitors to their respective destinations on the public ground. The parking is accessed by way of two feeder roads on the west and east edge of the site. On the west, we introduce a new access road outside of the project boundary to give access to the parking structure. On the east, we introduce an access road to the parking structure within the boundary of the site at the edge of the main block of land and its adjoining “finger”; here, we respect the logic of the property edge, since the access road does not give way to other developments. The extended ‘finger’ to the east end of the site is reserved for a hotel; its main public lobby, restaurants, private meeting and function rooms are distributed on the public plane.


The various public functions on the ground plane take advantage of strategic adjacencies in order to activate the site. As such one can understand the organization of the programs running from east to west as a series of bands, each of which making logical use of its neighboring program.


The south face of the building contains a series of drop-offs for each program. In turn, the north face of the building contains a multi-story parking structure that connects directly to each component within the building: from west to east, the arena, the oasis, the convention hall, theater-plex, souk/mall, the aqua center, and the hotel.


On the eastern edge, the Hotel takes advantage of the its proximity to the New Kuwait Sports Shooting Club. A drop off area is reserved on eastern edge of the site to be coordinated with the entry sequence of the Club itself.


To the west of the Hotel and Sporting Club, we propose an Sport Spa. This fitness and health retreat can be used by both the Hotel and Sport Club alike, and it contains a variety of pools: for swimming laps, for leisure, for diving, and for relaxation. The spa will contain other health programs, massage therapy, skin care, physiotherapy, muscle toning machines, gymnasium and bathing facilities.


The Sport Spa takes advantage of the retail area to its west, drawing from its cafes and shopping environment to urbanize one edge– as if on the edge of the city. The Souk Mall is a dense labyrinth of small alleys, filled with boutiques, shops, and specialty products to provide for an alternative to conventional malls. This bustling and area gives relief to the serenity of the spa, and provides for a healthy economical base for the public ground, drawing for its rents and retail venues. While the shops are found at the base level, the second level is housed by workshops, crafts stores and offices, connected to the market place by artisanal production. If the first floor is a public ground for residents, tourists, and visitors alike, the second floor serves as infrastructural programmatic support. A small ‘maidan’ hovers at the edge of the Souk and the Spa, bringing them together in an open public space, reinforced by food venues, restaurants and cafes.


From the main drop off, south of the Souk, a main lobby organizes the various aspects of the site. To the west of the mall, a convention/exhibition hall sits underneath a movie Cineplex– taking advantage of the raked seating of the theaters to form a vault for the monumental hall beneath. Atop the Convention Hall, the main lobby of the movie theaters draws in light from above and gives light to the space beneath. The Cineplex serves as an entertainment annex to the retail environment, but it also functions as auditoria for the special events held in the convention center. Composed of varied sizes the theaters are designed as flexible spaces and can house a range of events.


To the west of the theaters sit three more public arenas, a small performing arts center, an IMAX theater and a large all purpose arena. The performing arts center serves to broaden the cultural agenda of district, bringing theatrical troupes to the site. The IMAX is a state of the arts space for the visualization of nature programs, science and documentary programs. The large Arena displays a formal bias to one side, making it akin to an amphitheater, though still functioning in the round. Thus, it simultaneously works for theater, for concerts, as well as for sports and other collective events. Its asymmetry also helps to create a grand staircase, connecting the ground plane to the green roof.


The grand arena is surrounded by galleries, some support offices, and retail designed for events. The Performing Arts Center has an entry from this area also, so that it may function independently form the Cineplex when desired. Also, featured in this lobby area, is a large Arboretum, a controlled oasis that serves as an educational garden, where butterflies can be cultivated.

This proposal features a variety of sustainable elements that are geared towards rethinking the environmental goals of the area, while also reinforcing the organization of the building. First, the idea of the canopy emerges from the potential of a shaded public space. Drawing from the overwhelming heat of the climate, the canopy produces a virtual insulatory membrane over the entire building. The roof of the Matte Building is planted with an intensive roof system, planted with local desert brush, extending the physical landscape of the region right onto its roof. The ‘green’ roof counters the heat island effect, while also regulating storm water drainage. In turn, the planting contributes to the air quality of the district, transforming CO2 to Oxygen. Additionally, 10-15 meter vent towers are inserted into the canopy; each tower surrounds a concrete core that is heated during the day, drawing all the hot air from the ground level up the stacks to create air circulation and a natural venting system for the entire public zone. If the building has all the necessary mechanical systems for complete conditioning of all its spaces, the natural venting extends the cool months of the year by several months, contributing to its life cycles energy.

The east edge of the site is anchored by the hotel, a hospitality complex serving the rifle club, conventioneers, and spa retreat goers. With public functions at the base, the hotel offers dining facilities, lounges, beauty salons, a business communication center, a conference center, gymnasium, and other service programs. The public ground is capped by a plinth of hotel rooms, organized on two floors, around courtyards-each planted with a different species of tree. In turn, three hotel towers crown the plinth, distinguishing between executive business suites, family suites, and entertainment suites. The towers become totemic objects in the skyline of the scheme, and provide an iconic presence to the site from the downtown area.

The spa is composed of a variety of pools: wave pool, lap pool, children’s pool, bubble pools, and wading diving pools. The spa will also contain other health programs, massage therapy, skin care, physiotherapy, muscle toning machines, gymnasium and bathing facilities. Open to the hotel guests, Rifle club members and the general public, the Spa contains both open and private areas, giving its patrons the choice of both festive environments and also concealed retreats.

The Art Souk is a dense labyrinth of small alleys, filled with boutiques, shops, and specialty products to provide for an alternative to conventional malls. This bustling and area gives relief to the serenity of the spa, and provides for a healthy economical base for the public ground, drawing for its rents and retail venues. While the shops are found at the base level, the second level is housed by workshops, crafts stores and offices, connected to the market place by artisanal production. If the first floor is a public ground for residents, tourists, and visitors alike, the second floor serves as infrastructural programmatic support. A small ‘maidan’ hovers at the edge of the SOUK and the SPA, bringing them together in an open public space, reinforced by food venues, restaurants and cafes.

The Art Souk is designed as a place to see and be seen. Organized with alleys on the east-west and north-south axes, the walkways also ascend and descend connecting the various levels of the marketplace and give views above and below to adjoining areas. The circulation is conceived so that both longitudinal, lateral, and spiral circulation may take place; the alleys also vary in dimension, accounting for the hierarchies of circulation within over proposal. As such, the Souks are the anchor to the scheme, connecting to the Arena on the west end (under the convention hall), while also connecting to the hotel on the east, bringing the maximum amount of the public to the core of the building.

A simple flat floor, flexible and open, characterizes this exhibit hall for shows, fairs, events, and conventions. Covered by theaters, the rake of theater seating forms the vault of the convention hall, creating a monumental space where events may be enjoyed. Drawing from the staggered relationship of theaters, the convention hall also contains smaller ‘pockets’ of space around the main vault, where contained activities, smaller subcategories of conventions may be programmed. These spaces also give the flexibility of opening onto the arena foyer or the Art Souk, as required; flexible in its conception, this hall may be sealed off for privacy or opened up for public circulation as desired, based on special events.

The Convention Hall is arranged to accept, among others, five different configurations. First, it can be sealed as a stand alone hall, for private shows and conferences; this is thought as a secured space that is controlled for both visual and circulation reasons. Second, the hall may be independently joined to the large theater on the north edge without compromising the functions of the theater-plex above; the large theater will bring large volumes of people together for lectures, presentations, and conferences. Third, the Performing Arts Center on the south edge, may also be joined to the Hall independently, for events that required backstage props, mechanical complexities, or theatrical productions. Fourth, the entire theater-plex above the hall may be appropriated for large scale conventions and conferences; this configuration is designed for special events during the day, and only marginally impacts the movie schedules in the evenings. Finally, the Arena may also be joined to the Conventional Hall, for large scale events, where audiences in excess of 7,500 people are in attendance. Most importantly, the scheme is designed so as to address any variation of circulation sequence, maintaining security, separation, and insularity for events that require autonomy.

The Theater-plex is accessed by a monumental stair from the ground level. This stair is open to the roof level, where other public programs are located. The theater concourse is a controlled area, and tickets are collected at the junction of the stair and concourse. The concourse gives way to five movie houses, one large flexible theater (for movies, lectures, conferences and other venues), one IMAX theater, as well as one smaller performing arts center complete with backstage, set design areas, changing rooms and offices. The large theater, IMAX, and performing arts center are placed and circulated so as to enjoy semi-autonomy from the main concourse, giving them the flexibility to engage with the convention hall in a variety of ways upon demand. The rake of the theater seating forms the vault of the convention hall, and its exit circulation enjoys vista into the hall without the compromising access and security.

The arena is designed to be used as a flexible space, suitable for events of different scales. Its asymmetry supports the idea of home team/visiting team audience variation, but also makes possible an amphitheater configuration with backstage, a concert hall, or even a convention hall arena with connection to public areas on the roof garden.
As part of the extended landscape of the public ground, we propose a green space lifted above the foyer to the Arena. An oasis, a green arboretum enclosed from both the outdoors as well as the indoors will serve as a space for butterflies and other delicate fauna. The OASIS sits between the Arena and the IMAX theater, and the roof top restaurant; thus it is woven into the itinerary of the public promenade gaining access to the roof.

Kuwait City, Kuwait

Design 2006-2007; Construction 2008-2011

Project size
1,080,000 square feet

Office dA

Principal in charge
Nader Tehrani

Project Design
Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon

Project Coordinator
Kurt Evans

Project Team
Ghazal Abbasy, Sean Baccei, Arthur Chang, Michael Filisky, Lisa Huang, Ji-Young Park, Ahmad Reza Schricker, Kyle Sturgeon

Real Estate Branch of Villa Moda: Zeid Abdul Hadi, CEO; Abeer Seikaly, Achille Rossini, design.

Structural Engineer: Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger
James C. Parker, Principal, Structural Design
Matthew Johnson, Project Manager, Structural Design

MEP Engineer: Arup
Mark Walsh-Cooke
Mahadev Raman

Other Information
Site Characteristics: Desert Landscape
Zoning Constraints: Max. Height 17m
Type of Client: Private/Public Joint Venture
Program: Public (Retail, Commercial, Conference And Convention Center, Arena, Cineplex, Aquatic Spa Center, Hotel), Residential
Construction System: Concrete Framing with Coffering
Funding: Private

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