Nightfall view of the Arab Fund building. Photo from the organization’s website.

 

The Arab Organizations Headquarters is one of the most beautiful examples of modern Islamic architecture of the past decades. It was designed [verification needed] by the Qatari architect Yasser Mahgoub, who was also involved in the Kuwait Towers – the national symbol of Kuwait – the Parliament, the restoration of the Souq al Sharq and other historic buildings, as well as many other creations (for a profile of the architect see here). As the signature architect of Kuwait (he also taught for a long time at Kuwait University) it is not surprising that the ambitious plans to build a new urban center – Silk City – also bear his name.

The driving force behind the building is the Chairman of the the Board of Directors of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the biggest of the four organizations housed in the building. Abdullatif Al Hamad (1937) and his wife Feddah Al Qatami are also important Kuwaiti collectors, focusing on modern Arab artists and cultural heritage. This love for cultural heritage is evident in the building, from its general principles to the smallest details inside. Master craftsmen and artists from all over the Arab world were commissioned to produce elements of the building.

The building was completed in 1994 and it is a far cry from the glitzy architecture the Gulf is today known for. It’s austere, boxy exterior emulates the traditional approach of Arab buildings to dealing with the harsh climate: facing away from the street. Inside it’s cool, the light is indirect and the volumes are surprising. Unlike similar buildings where the entrance and atrium contain all the details to please the visitor, even the most recondite spaces of this building are carefully crafted and decorated according to various Arab traditions.

The website offers a virtual tour of the building, from which the images above have been sourced; although the graphic interface is outdated, the tour is surprisingly complete. It is no match however for a real visit of the building. An appointment must be made beforehand by calling one of the numbers given in the sidebar of this page, or sending an e-mail. One can then receive a guided tour, individually or for a group.

 

Written by: RobertK Last modified: 5th Nov 2012
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