This study examines the socio-cultural spaces of the two major groups in Kuwait: the Hadhar and Badu. These groups are not an ethnic classification but are rooted in their historic settlements. The Hadhar refer to people who lived in old Kuwait town and were mostly merchants and artisans who made their living from the sea. The Badu on the other hand, most commonly referred to as Bedouins, are nomadic tribes who lived on the outskirts of old Kuwait town or in the Arabian Desert. This study employs cognitive maps to reveal fascinating insights into the lifestyles and cultural differences of these two groups as it relates to their domestic built environment. This study argues that house spatial organization is tightly coupled with a family’s socio-cultural traditions and values; hence, there are major spatial distinctions between the houses of the Hadhar and Badu. These differences are apparent in the houses’ main spaces such as the living hall, male guest reception space or diwaniya, and main entrance. This paper also contends that these differences are rooted historically in the traditional Hadhar mud brick courtyard houses and the traditional Badu Arabian tents. Although the oil boom and consequent impact of globalization transformed Kuwait’s houses into modern villas, on the inside they are still linked to each group’s traditional use of space.
Al-Haroun , Yousef (2015). Attitudes to Vernacular Elements in Kuwait's Domestic Architecture: A Mixed Method Study. University of Sheffield, U.K.
This research is on contemporary attitudes, perceptions, and understandings of vernacular architecture in the context of environmental and cultural sustainability. It uses Kuwait’s domestic architecture as a specific case study, in which it employs Kuwait’s traditional vernacular architectural elements as a vehicle to further examine socio-cultural, economic, and political issues surrounding the move towards modernity and away from the vernacular and sustainability. The elements are not used to find ways to nostalgically recreate past architecture, instead learn from their principles to inform a more sustainable future.
In order to explore this, a mixed method approach has been employed for the study through two stages: the first, qualitatively driven, and the second, a quantitatively driven follow-up. The first stage used two workshops – the first homeowners and second designers, conducted as a platform to simultaneously use questionnaires, cognitive maps, photo elicitation, and group interviews. The second stage continued to use questionnaires and cognitive maps as it examined the findings of the first stage in more detail. More than one method has provided rich descriptive data, which enhanced understandings of Kuwait’s complex social phenomena.
The findings highlighted how the effects of modernity changed people’s understandings of their domestic built environments. Specifically how people dealt with and adapted with the collision between traditional concepts and modern practices. For example, how the courtyard has been replaced by the family living room. Moreover, diverse interpretations of the courtyard space revealed how many people perceived the courtyard as spaces in front, back, or around the house, which may suggest how their perceptions of the courtyard is closely linked to the characteristics of the modern villa. There is something about the courtyard that the participants found desirable, which saw it emerging as a consistent theme throughout the methods and stages of the study. Yet the research was unable to narrow down this elusive quality, and perhaps may suggest it is the synthesis of many socio-cultural and environmental factors that makes this element attractive.
Other findings continue to reflect people’s adaptation to their environment, only this time in response to government mismanagement of public housing welfare. Scarcity of residential land and high real-estate prices eventually led to Kuwait’s current housing crisis. As a result, people needed more space and added apartments for their children in their houses to secure them future housing. This situation helped to inflame an already sensitive built environment and further reshaped the Kuwaiti house to heterogeneous box like structures.
This study captured a moment of Kuwait’s contemporary architectural reality by studying people’s understandings to traditional vernacular elements. In doing so it highlighted an unstable dichotomy between tradition and modernity. It also argues that without a fundamental change in government policy a more sustainable built environment may not be possible.
Al-Haroun , Yousef (2014) Perceptions of Space in Kuwait. Kuwait University, Kuwait University Press, Kuwait
The aim of this study is to present a new approach to understanding the challenges facing Kuwait’s built environments. Through the lens of people who have lived in both old and new Kuwait City, this research attempts to reveal spatial patterns in both the house and the city before and after Kuwait’s transformation. This recognition and interpretation of specific city and house elements will provide insight into the citizen’s experiences and perceptions of their local environments. Understanding the past and present of Kuwait’s built environments is a key starting point to identify the challenges associated with rapid transformation, thus suggesting potential developments for its future. Specifically, this study proposes that by examining perceptions of space in Kuwait one may be able to understand the affects of change on Kuwait's older and newer generations in relation to their built environments.