Cruising the Gulf road, heading down the First Ring Road, navigating Kuwait City, off-roading in the desert, it doesn’t really matter where you are; you can’t help but notice Al-Hamra Tower. Its presence is a symbol of Kuwait’s prosperity and forward-looking philosophy as well as a stunning example of innovative modern architecture and engineering.
It may not be the tallest building in the world, but as we all know, size isn’t everything. Looking like a chic, cloaked figure watching over the entire country, Al-Hamra Tower is of course the tallest building in Kuwait but there is so much more to it. If you’re looking for facts though, it is; the second tallest building in the Middle East, the second tallest concrete structure in the world, the fifth tallest office building in the world, and the twelfth tallest building in the world.
The tower is, with its asymmetrical design, a feat of engineering. The two flaring walls that wrap around the tower make this the highest sculpted or twisting tower in the world. To achieve this meant engineering the impossible to create a building that exists in harmony with its surroundings and makes this a unique structure that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
The shape of the building was dictated by the environment. Where most buildings have four, or at least two identical facades, Al-Hamra Tower has four entirely different facades. Not only does this deliver a stunning aesthetic, but it is entirely practical too. The north façade is constructed entirely of glass to afford magnificent, unbroken views of the Gulf – Kuwait Towers look minuscule from this vantage point. The glass itself is exceptional in that it actually curves around the corners of this façade. The south side of the building is cloaked entirely in concrete. With the desert sun beating down from this compass point, the concrete keeps the building cool. Limestone slabs applied to the concrete absorb solar radiation and block out the sun. The design of the windows on the carved out south façade also serve to further protect the tenants from the blistering heat here in Kuwait. Along the curved sections of the flaring walls, the limestone was broken down and made onto truncatus. Essentially this is like laying mosaic tile on to a mesh and applying it to the exterior of the building. By hand! It took teams of workmen five months to complete this intricate work but it adds another unique element to this truly inspiring building.
The site of the Al-Hamra Tower is wrapped up in Kuwait history. The tower has been built on what was the site of Kuwait’s very first cinema and one of the first entertainment venues in the Gulf. Embracing this trailblazing mind-set, Al-Hamra wants their tower to serve as inspiration of what Kuwait can do and what it can be. Not only is it a feat of engineering, but it also shows what can be achieved through private industry here in Kuwait.
The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merill (SOM) of Chicago, who also designed Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The beauty of Al-Hamra Tower lies in its assimilation with its surroundings. It feels like a Kuwaiti building, built for Kuwait and the construction itself was carried out by Kuwaiti contractors. Burj Khalifa seems like it could exist anywhere.
Al-Hamra Tower is divided vertically into three stacked office-floor zones. Visitor and tenants to the office spaces will reach the upper two zones by heading to sky lobbies on the thirtieth and fiftieth floors. These lobbies in the sky will feature meeting spaces and other amenities to conduct business in a place like no other. At the base of the building is the Luxury Center. This shopping paradise is already open for business and features exclusive stores not seen before in Kuwait – Hermes, Vera Wang and Versace Café, to name but a few. The space is spread over five floors and 24000 m2. In tribute to the site’s heritage there will also be a state-of-the-art cinema complex. A gym and a spa are also present and members will be able to enjoy a roof garden atop the mall. At the heart of the Luxury Center you’ll find the largest LED screen in Kuwait, which also houses an elevator behind its screen. Outside the Luxury Center is the Plaza which spans 6000 m2 where guests can enjoy the musical water fountain, while dining at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
The crowning glory of Al-Hamra Tower though, sits of course at the very top of the building. On the top floor is a mesmerizing space, thirty meters high and spanning 1700 meters squared that will offer a dining experience unparalleled in Kuwait. Windows reach from the floor to the ceiling and wrap all the way around delivering a full vista of the Gulf. As if that were not enough, the restaurant will also feature internal balconies, accessible by elevators, to offer a private dining experience at the top of the world.
So whether you want to hit the exclusive stores, dine amongst the clouds, or merely strain your neck looking up at this stunning building, there is no denying it is an inspiring and welcome addition to Kuwait’s skyline.