Scale model of the intended final appearance of the National Museum when renovation works are completed. Buildings in white exist, those in blue must still be built. Image courtesy of Pan Arab Consulting Engineers, the organization undertaking the reconstruction

The National Museum of Kuwait, built between 1981 and 86, and looted and burnt by Iraqi soldiers in 1990-91, is under restoration. For unknown reasons the start of the reconstruction was delayed for a long time, and it seems to be currently proceeding at a rather leisurely pace. For an impression of what the building should look like when completed visit the architect’s website here. The sketches and renderings that can be found elsewhere on the internet are not particularly enticing. The original courtyard shading, although it seems to function, is very heavy on raw cement – a strange mix between 1960s brutalist architecture and contemporary light-weight eco-friendly design.

The aspect of the museum in Jan 2012. The facade has been described by local architecture critics as ugly, out-of-date and like a warehouse; notice also the enormous unwieldy columns upholding the roof bottom right. Photos by RobertK

Two sections of the museum can be visited:

  1. the archaeological section, with a limited but interesting display of items from the Bronze age (Dilmun period) and the Hellenic period, discovered on the island of Failaka by the Kuwaiti Slovak archaeological mission. More information on the activities of this archaeological cooperation mission can be found on its very complete website.
  2. a popular arts and crafts section, with 1:1 reconstructions of Kuwaiti houses, village life, trade and crafts, complete with souq and wax figures. This section was installed according to the 1990s mode of the experience-based museum for the masses, but as is the problem with such displays that leave little room for change, it has become terribly démodé after two decades. Which has a certain charm…

 

Findings from the Hellenic period on Failaka (left) and display from the popular arts and crafts section (right). Photos by RobertK

The planetarium is apparently also open to the public. However, the main section of the museum – still to be renovated – should house the Dar al Athar al Islamiyya collection.

On the museum grounds there is also a theatre, run by the NCCAL.

Next to the National Museum, but with the entrance on the Gulf street, is the beautifully restored Beit Sadu, named after the Sadu bedouins (that can also be found in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq) who produce striking weavings. This is a pleasant place to visit, even if one is not interested in the subject. The Beit Sadu is also occasionally used for design/arts events.

 

Interior of Beit Sadu. Photo by RobertK

 

Written by: RobertK Last modified: 5th Nov 2012
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