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Delegates at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research’s (KISR’s) Innovation Concourse received a special presentation explaining the creative and practical considerations underpinning the design of the country’s latest cultural complex, the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC), by architecture and engineering consultancy SSH.
The event was held on Wednesday 22 February 2017, at the KISR Shuwaikh Campus in the capital city.
The KISR Innovation Concourse aims to highlight various aspects of innovative approaches to design, from the initial inspiration, through practical invention and application, to the commercialisation of such projects. The event culminated in a spotlight presentation that showcased an accomplishment made in one of these areas.
The SSH developed JACC is Kuwait’s latest contribution to the country’s cultural landscape.
Cultural buildings are some of the most important focal points of a city. They act as a nexus for creativity, encouraging cultural interaction, celebrating international and local talent, being a primer for education and helping to inspire new, fresh perspectives within the artistic community.
To mirror this artistic ethos, cultural centres must be architecturally dynamic, awe-inspiring structures. Contemporary and aesthetically pleasing design must blend seamlessly with practical and flexible functionality, utilising cutting-edge building techniques, materials, technologies and practices. This is of increased importance in the harsher climates of the Middle East, where such institutions must be capable of withstanding environmental extremes without compromising their primary function. This need to adapt to the region’s climate often leads to new public buildings becoming a showcase for structural and environmental innovation.
The JACC development, which opened to the public late last year, epitomises these ideals and is the centrepiece of a wider national cultural district, also master planned by SSH.
Ray Phillips, Design Director, CSO and Senior Partner at SSH, and Lead Designer of the JACC, described to delegates how, by working closely with the client, an initial design brief had been developed outlining the scope and ultimate vision for the scheme.
The guidelines, for four core structures encompassing the different practical aspects and site considerations for the development, led to the ‘four jewels’ concept for the centre.
The main buildings are encased in an Islamic-inspired geometric titanium envelope, which are designed to interact with light and shadow and are set like jewels within extensive landscaped grounds. The highly textured outer skin has resulted in a dramatic external aesthetic against the surrounding public spaces that sees the JACC stand out as a major focal point of the Kuwait City skyline.
This outer casing also acts as temperature regulation and a protective watertight weather shield for the core structures beneath, with their creative functions – a Theatre Centre, Music Centre, Conference Centre and National Library for Historical Documents – becoming the creative “jewels within jewels” of the development.
Inside, the core structures highly flexible spaces have been designed, with aspects, including the Conference Centre, able to physically transform to accommodate the practical public needs of the complex.
The interior public areas are beautifully designed, but also practical, carrying the external canopies’ Islamic-inspired design language into the interior spaces via further geometric forms and Islamic calligraphy.
“Working together with the client, SSH embarked on a design journey to realise a series of dramatic yet flexible buildings. Careful planning enabled us to fulfil the client’s ultimate vision for a cultural space that will be a new centrepiece for creativity, not only for Kuwait, but also the wider Middle East,” said SSH’s Ray Phillips at the concourse event.