The Arab Fund Organisation Building

By Millie

The Arab Organizations Headquarters Building, situated outside Kuwait City in Shuwaikh, blends modern architectural techniques with traditional artisan crafts. Completed in 1994, it is home to four major Arab organizations: The Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company.

Considered one of the most acclaimed buildings in the Middle East, it draws thousands of visitors from across the globe.

One of the most exciting examples of innovative architecture to emerge in Kuwait, the building serves as a modern, high functioning office building and a national landmark. Here modern technology has been adapted to the culture of the countries it represents. From the cool tranquility of the Moroccan water wall to the intricate woodwork of the majestic Egyptian Mashrabiya, the building represents a celebration of traditional Arabian artisan skills.

 

An Imposing Yet Austere Facade Has Its Own Story to Tell

Blending traditional Arab house design with modern technologies, its imposing yet box-like exterior reveals little of the splendors inside the Arab Organizations Headquarters Building. A massive, inhuman gray cube of granite covering 54,000 square meters, dotted with deep-set, slanted windows on each face, confronts the visitor from several kilometers away. This silent, austere facade is intentional.

In a climate where daytime temperatures can reach 50° C, heat and light posed critical design challenges. The virtually maintenance-free rough stone and granite exterior creates a natural sand trap. Windows on each face of the building are deeply recessed and angled to offer indirect sunlight. In addition to extensive underground parking, parking pavilions are erected by the front fountain for VIP visitors.

In keeping with Arabic architectural customs, the orientation of the building is entirely inward. In a generally hot and hostile environment, high exterior walls surrounding an inner courtyard, or hoche, offer privacy and protection from the sun's intense rays without forfeiting a feeling of airy openness.

Looking out toward Kuwait City, a huge glass wall dominates the northeast facade. This is the world's largest suspended glass wall and a key feature of the building. Designed to allow the maximum indirect light into the central atrium, the glass wall is a source of consistent natural light.

 

Massive Hand Carved Doors...Each Weighing One Ton

Yet, despite their massive size and weight, these doors are so well balanced that they will open at the touch of a finger. Intricately hand carved and painstakingly constructed, no nails or glue hold the individual pieces in place. This allows the wood to expand with the extreme heats of the region without harming the door.

On either side of the outside entrance, exquisitely carved Tunisian stone work can be seen.

Once inside, the building's soaring dimensions and breathtaking artistry capture the imagination. The visitor's attention is immediately drawn to the colossal Moroccan water wall with its colorful hand-crafted tiles and a complimentary Moroccan tile-work. Next to the waterfall is a wooden "Samarkand Tree" sculpture.

Albeit on a much more grandiose scale, the Central Atrium of the Arab Organizations Headquarters Building functions much as the traditional hoash or central courtyard of a classic Arab house design. It serves as a common ground for the building's occupants and visitors... a comfortable area for socialization and interaction.

Imagine the feeling of lightness created by nine stories of pure air in the core of the building. The sky seems to stretch endlessly upward, unhindered by the large glass skylight in the ceiling and here we see many of the traditional features. The majestic Egyptian Mashrabiya towers a full nine stories high, an enormous suspended glass wall on the north east. Lush vegetation and trees provide additional shade. The Syrian fountain adds soothing water music and the marble floor repeats the geometric star patterns of the skylight and fountain.

Yet this is a thoroughly modern building with careful attention to every detail. Even in the vastness of the Atrium all areas are thoroughly accessible for maintenance.

To one side of the courtyard is a coffee area, with tables and chairs where one can sit and enjoy the Central Atrium's splendor. Here one can contemplate the magnificence of the architecture and the decor, shaded by Ficus trees and surrounded by beadwork screens and arched Mashrabiyas. A symbol of Paradise for early Muslims, the garden became a quintessential element of traditional Arabian architecture.

Now I don’t want to spoil the countless surprises that lie in store within this austere building, and encourage you to visit this incredible placce whilst you’re in Kuwait. To arrange a visit you need to call ahead and book, ideally include 4 to 25 people in the group, and you will be given a guided tour by one of the buildings employees.

Contact: 2484.4500 to arrange a guided tour or stay tuned and check out our Whats On for next Guided Tour.