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Kuwaiti Modernity: The Development of Institutions and Their Architecture in a City-State

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Architectural historians dated the project of modernity in Kuwait in 1948. This dissertation questioned the start date and proved that Kuwait presents alternative modernity shaped by a continuous process of change that relies on the political, economic, and social changes happening within the city or nearby cities. Kuwait’s modernity was visible through its architecture four decades earlier, starting from the early twentieth century. The project investigates nation-building and modernity in Kuwait during the early twentieth century under the leadership of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah. Looking at the architecture and spatial formation of four newly developed institutions: Seif Palace, the British Political Agency (BPA), al-Mubarakia school, and the American Mission Hospital. Architecture was used as a primary factor in constructing an independent city-state that emphasized the political powers through the building of institutions. Each building prototype added a layer to the process of constructing a national identity to the newly developing independent city. The struggle between Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah and foreign powers created a platform for Kuwait’s modernity that sparked but did not take it further. Kuwaiti governmental buildings continue to produce the same solo national identity: Muslim, Sunni, Bedouin, and Arab. The one selected national identity ignores the complex social and cultural backgrounds of Kuwait’s residents.

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This item is under embargo until April 28, 2024.