Sabah Al-Salem University, College of Arts
Square Footage: 640,000 SF
AIA New York State–Award of Excellence, 2010
World Architecture Festival–Finalist, 2009
Kuwait's culture and climate served as primary drivers for our design of the two College of Arts buildings. With the region's prevalent sandstorms, and temperatures ranging from 40ºF to 140ºF, we looked to the Dewaniya tent (a traditional Kuwait gathering place and desert shelter) for sustainable strategies and design inspiration. The tent's social function and form are sophisticated responses to the specific environmental and cultural conditions of the region, and also an appropriate metaphor for the spirit and function of a college of liberal arts: a gathering place for discussion and exchange of ideas.
The interior climate is controlled in successive layers, from the exterior façade treatment and entry sequence, to informal gathering spaces, and finally to the building's fully conditioned core of classrooms and offices. The first layer (the building’s exterior) emulates woven tent fabric with limestone "threads". Subsequent interior layers provide both thermal and visual protection, with threads of varying density allowing views to the outside and appropriate illumination for spaces inside.
The mass of the building is lifted off the ground, with a planted buffer zone around the entire perimeter, punctuated by a series of naturally ventilated "tent gardens" that extend the full height of the structure, bringing filtered light into the building core. These courtyard gardens are major circulation nodes and gathering spaces, with collaborative touchdown areas, lounges, informal meeting areas, and cafes. Corridors connecting these courtyards link classrooms, training spaces, administrative areas, a TV studio, black box theaters, dining areas, a student gallery space, and libraries. Administrative and classroom areas were designed for maximum flexibility and adaptability.