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Abraj Al-Kuwait

Kuwait Towers
Kuwait Towers

Abraj Al-Kuwait will be nominated as a single monument. It is to be noted that this building is considered to be part of a nation-wide network of infrastructural water supply and reservoirs which consist of 31 more water towers (known as the mushroom towers) that are strategically distributed in groups around the country, and are connected to the distribution grid of the two already built distillation seawater plants.

This ambitious national project was part of the country’s large scale modernization process undergoing since the first shipment of oil in 1946, and essential to ensure an effective system of water distribution to a growing population, until then supplied by tank trucks.

A new modern system of fresh water distribution and reservoir was commissioned in 1965 by the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) to the Swedish architectural and engineering firm VBB (Vattenbyggnadsbyran AB), with Sune Lindstrom as Chief Architect for the whole project.

Due to its prominent location at the north east corner of the metropolitan area, overlooking Kuwait bay and the Arabian Gulf, special attention was given to this group of towers; therefore, the architectural work was awarded to architect Malene Bjorn.
This group of towers was given the name “Kuwait Towers” which translates to Arabic as Abraj AI-Kuwait, and since its opening on February 26th1977, has been regarded as a symbol of national identity.

Abraj Al-Kuwait is located on the waterfront on a small peninsula in the northern part of Kuwait City. Such important location made H.H. the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah request for an exclusive design that could make a difference in the bay’s skyline. In order to achieve the challenge of reconciling the water reservoir function with a pleasant design. Accordingly, VBB asked for the collaboration of the Bjorn & Bjorn Design AB led by the Danish architect Malene Bjorn in 1967.

This group of towers became a composition of three spikes of different heights set out of the points of a triangle inside the circular perimeter of a green landscape base, combining a program to store 9000 cubic metres of water with a component of public facilities.

The tallest of the three towers with the height of 185m (at the time considered to be the highest in the Middle East) situates two spheres designed for public use. The largest sphere divided into two halves, the lower half is a water reservoir of 4500 cubic meters, while the upper half consist of an open-plan restaurant connected to other level by a smooth curved stairway that leads to a banquet hall with an interior garden. The second sphere, known as the viewing sphere, with two interior levels, is mostly covered by aluminium trusses fitted with triangular glass pieces which allow a full view of the city, sea and desert at 120m height with a 360° rotating platform. For the viewing and restaurant spheres, the visitor’s access is made at the ground level through the base of the tower, revolving the public around the mound across ramps and stairs with elegant balustrades.
The second tower has only one sphere with an exclusive function of water reservation. The third and smallest tower 100 meters tall in the form of an elegant white needle is purely sculptural and holds a floodlight system that illuminates the other two towers.

Constructed of concrete, in pure white, the final image get closes to a sculptural object ornamented by forty-one thousand enamelled steel disks in shades of blue, green, and grey, cladding the spheres, like the mosaic Islamic patterns. The tip of each tower, covered with stainless steel and acts as a lightning arrestor, also suggest the mosque minarets, as the spheres can be associated with domes. This Islamic symbolism together with the value of fresh water in such an arid country, allowed for a wider acceptance of this monumental structure as a national symbol.

Abraj Al-Kuwait is a unique and remarkable way of transforming pure engineering into pure architecture, between western technology and Islamic culture, contemporary requirements and ancient traditions, into a highly creative building. – UNESCO

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