Image credit: Anthony Fieldman

Client: Central Bank of Kuwait
Location: Kuwait City, Kuwait
Size: 700,000sf
Program: Owner-occupied offices, Banking facilities, On-site amenities
Cost: N/A
Status: Competition entry completed 2003
Awards: 2004 Chicago Athenaeum, 2004 MIPIM Overall Winner, 2004 MIPIM Tall Buildings category, 2003 AIA New England Chapter - Future, 2003 AIA NY Chapter - Future
Link to web content: Archello

Key Roles: R. Anthony Fieldman, former Associate Partner and lead project designer, SOM

SOM - Architect of Record

Image credit: © SOM unless otherwise noted







Kuwait City is one of the hottest inhabited urban centers in the world. Daytime temperatures can exceed 140 degrees. Local traditional means of mitigating this harsh environment have been supplanted in recent years with artificial cooling and conditioning systems that do not recognize climate or place. The site sits prominently at the edge of Kuwait Bay, where natural winds and breezes meet the unrelenting desert heat. The challenge is to create a building that responds to this environment as a means of creating a new and native landmark.

The basic form of Central Bank of Kuwait tower is an inside-out skyscraper that protects against harsh desert sun while maximizing shaded light and views of Kuwait Bay. Like traditional middle-eastern courtyard buildings, this tower has two faces: an outer (protective) face exposed to the sun, and an inner (protected) face that opens to a central symbolic courtyard that is open from the top of the tower to the ground. 

The tower’s 185-meter tall outer wall is nearly solid, and is minimally glazed. This wall is load bearing and monolithic, and is comprised of prefabricated modular steel plates with a cast concrete cover to the outside; this shell provides the main support structure for both gravity and lateral loads. Post-tensioned concrete spans between exterior walls, leaving the lease-span entirely column-free. Environmentally, the thermal mass of these walls is used to store heat gain during the day and reject this heat at night.

Multiple human-scale window openings measuring 400mm x 1500mm permeate the solid tower surface, comprising 15% of the wall, which, like traditional sun-screening devices (mashrubiya), allow filtered light into the office floors. At night, the effect reverses, and the light flows outward through the deep-set walls which, when viewed from the city, creates the overall effect of a shimmering tower of solid light. 

Effectively, the tower is perceived as a monolith of monumental scalelessness that by day symbolizes the stability and security of the bank and by night creates a beacon in the sky and on the gulf.