Saba George Shiber's Kuwaitopolis And The Emergence Of The Arab Urban-Architect

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Arab architecture
City planning
Kuwait City
Oil construction boom
urban architecture
Islamic World and Near East History
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Alkanderi, Aminah H.

This dissertation tells the story of an Arab architect and planner through the (re)development of Kuwait City from a medieval seaport town to a metropolitan city. During his relatively short practice in Kuwait, Saba George Shiber (1924–1968) conceptualized the idea of the Arab metropolis and delivered the urban and architectural scheme Kuwaitopolis (1960-68), which instigated a new urban design practice particular to the Arab region. The process of making the independent, modern, and democratic nation-state of Kuwait included the following of specific guidelines established by international organizations, foreign consultants, and renowned architects. Albeit the international process of modernization in the 1950s was fundamental to asserting the independence of the state from the British mandate in June 1961, the decade following Kuwait’s independence saw the birth of a national approach that was facilitated by the growing availability of a neighboring Arab workforce. The shared vision and collaborative work of young Arab architects and international experts in modern architecture and city planning produced new models of architecture and forms of cities. Modern Kuwait City, Shiber argued, followed international standards of urban planning all the while indirectly referencing the particular urban fabric and patterns of traditional medieval Arab towns. Arab architects, planners, and engineers were therefore the principal authors of the second chapter of modernization of Kuwait between 1956 and 1968.This dissertation recontextualizes the plan of Kuwaitopolis and the redevelopment of the Central Business District (CBD) by Shiber, the Palestinian-born, American planner-architect who wrote the first chapter in the contemporary history of the making of new cities in the Arab region. My research traces the complex genealogy of the Arabic discipline of design instigated by the (re)planning of the city-state of Kuwait and its impact on the concept of the Arab metropolis. I inscribe here the emergence of a contemporary discourse on architecture from a variety of architecture and urban archives and interviews, including that of the Shiber family, pioneer practitioners, and Arabic publications in order to assess the form and structure of the Arab Gulf states today.

Franca Trubiano
Renata Holod
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