TheEdges Apartment, with its articulated brick cladding façade, lights up thestreets of Salmiya, a predominantly ex-pat neighborhoodin Kuwait. A simple rhythmic twist, achieved by transposition of thevertices on either side of a finite axis, imparts dynamism and drama to thefaçade. A very restrained palette of locally sourced natural brick and exposed concrete finish further emphasizes the purity of the mass and gives the building its unique personality.
The facade's irregularform was also influenced by practical considerations including the disruptionof strong prevailing winds, and the provision of shade and privacy. A verticalstrip of aluminum louvres splits the building's frontage into two halves,denoting the divide between homes on the north and south sides of the property.The louvres protect the central staircase from direct sunlight, but alsorestrict views into this glass-lined circulation space.
On theground floor, an exposed lobby adjacent to the parking area provides access to the staircase, lifts and a communal gym, which faces the street and ispartially shielded behind more metal louvres. The lobby's glass-reinforce dconcrete ceiling incorporates recessed lighting in an annular channel thatdirects residents and visitors towards the various entrances and continues thesharp lines of the facade. Patinated concrete floor tiles coated with clearepoxy resin form a hardy surface that complements the brick. A patio to therear of the building accommodates a small open-air swimming pool. The buildingis 10 stories high, housing 20 two-bed apartments.
The client commissioned us to design an apartment building as an investment property that will berented out to mainly ex-pats. The design had to be practical, low maintenanceand suited to the ex-pat lifestyle in Kuwait. A distinct street presence was an important requirement to distinguish it from the generic buildings that surround it. The client also wanted a large kitchen and living space for allthe bedrooms, which goes against the grain in ex-pat housing in Kuwait. Seaview for living areas for the upper floors was possible and had to beincorporated. The budget was extremely restrictive and the client insisted onthe usage of maintenance-free and hard-wearing locally sourced materials.
Thesite is located along with one of Salmiya’s congested roads. About 400 metersaway from the sea, it is also flanked by the American University of Kuwait anda secondary school. The multispecialty hospital is also in the near vicinity.All these along with a dense cluster of apartment buildings of similar sizemake it a relatively busy area. Noise and traffic was a real concern and so wasparking. Pedestrian access and car parking spaces are barely considered ofimportance as part of the urban area, creating a sense of disorder. The urbanfabric consisted of dense generic clusters of apartment blocks without anystreet presence.
The region’s extreme climatic conditions contribute to the existing difficulties and challenges the site has to offer, with the occasional dust storms and hot desert winds which affect the building and its surroundings.
The design of the edges apartment takes into consideration the challenges posed by the brief and the context and uses it to inform the design. Apart from developing a maintenance-free architectural layout, we decided that the façade design was of paramount importance and that it had to be aesthetically pleasing while being functional and conforming to the restrictive budget. Hence, we developed a simple articulated scheme in which the edges of the building are transposed ina rhythmic order. This gave the massinga decidedly edgy character, which was further enhanced by the decision to usebrick as a cladding. This articulation on the façade not only creates a senseof dynamism but also achieves more directional view points and acts as awindbreaker to the strong winds arriving from the sea on the northwest. These elements help the building to stand out in a very narrow streetscape.
On the ground floor, an exposed lobby adjacent to the parking area provides access to the staircase,lifts and a communal gym, which faces the street and is partially shielded behind aluminum louvres. The lobby's glass-reinforced concrete ceiling incorporates recessed lighting in an annular channel that directs residents and visitors towards the various entrances and continues the sharp lines of the facade.
The challenge was togive the building an instantly recognizable identity at the same time respecting an extremely restrictive budget. Functionality and serviceability were also as important. The building had to withstand the unforgiving summer heat of Kuwait made unbearable also by the occasional dust/sand storm.
The ventilated brickcladding with a weatherproof coating acts as effective thermal protection aswell as being hardy enough, along with the exposed concrete finishes, towithstand the harsh desert climate. The major windows are recessed to block outthe direct sun and Aluminum louvres are employed wherever possible to reduce the heat gain and the glare. Through itsalternation and transposition on the vertices, shade is achieved for floors below during all times of the day, reducing direct sunlight into the living areas.
The materials used comprises of a very restrained palette of locally sourced fired brick and fair-faced concrete. Respecting the budgetary constrained a low-tech approach was used considering sustainable material choices and energy consumption.
The edges apartment maintains its unique personality amongst the surrounding dense urbanity despiteits extremely simple program and restrictive budget, to the point it has become some sort of a landmark. The client’s preferences for local, hardwearing honest material was met through thechoice of simple brick and concrete facades which also makes it maintenance free and shields it from the dust and the heat. The project also respects its requirement to maximize the rentable space whileenhancing the quality of life for the tenants. The edges apartment practically disrupted the urbanfabric in hopes of instigating future projects to do so similarly, in an attempt to organize and transform the typology.