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University of Sheffield (2015)

Contemporary Attitudes to Vernacular Elements in Kuwait’s Domestic Architecture : A Mixed Method Study

Al-Haroun , Yousef

Titre : Contemporary Attitudes to Vernacular Elements in Kuwait’s Domestic Architecture : A Mixed Method Study

Auteur : Al-Haroun , Yousef

Université de soutenance : University of Sheffield

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2015

This research is on contemporary attitudes, perceptions, and understandings of vernacular architecture in the context of environmental and cultural sustainability. It uses Kuwait’s domestic architecture as a specific case study, in which it employs Kuwait’s traditional vernacular architectural elements as a vehicle to further examine socio-cultural, economic, and political issues surrounding the move towards modernity and away from the vernacular and sustainability. The elements are not used to find ways to nostalgically recreate past architecture, instead learn from their principles to inform a more sustainable future. In order to explore this, a mixed method approach has been employed for the study through two stages : the first, qualitatively driven, and the second, a quantitatively driven follow-up.The first stage used two workshops – the first homeowners and second designers, conducted as a platform to simultaneously use questionnaires, cognitive maps, photo elicitation, and group interviews. The second stage continued to use questionnaires and cognitive maps as it examined the findings of the first stage in more detail. More than one method has provided rich descriptive data, which enhanced understandings of Kuwait’s complex social phenomena. The findings highlighted how the effects of modernity changed people’s understandings of their domestic built environments. Specifically how people dealt with and adapted with the collision between traditional concepts and modern practices. For example, how the courtyard has been replaced by the family living room. Moreover, diverse interpretations of the courtyard space revealed how many people perceived the courtyard as spaces in front, back, or around the house, which may suggest how their perceptions of the courtyard is closely linked to the characteristics of the modern villa. There is something about the courtyard that the participants found desirable, which saw it emerging as a consistent theme throughout the methods and stages of the study. Yet the research was unable to narrow down this elusive quality, and perhaps may suggest it is the synthesis of many socio-cultural and environmental factors that makes this element attractive. Other findings continue to reflect people’s adaptation to their environment, only this time in response to government mismanagement of public housing welfare. Scarcity of residential land and high real-estate prices eventually led to Kuwait’s current housing crisis. As a result, people needed more space and added apartments for their children in their houses to secure them future housing. This situation helped to inflame an already sensitive built environment and further reshaped the Kuwaiti house to heterogeneous box like structures. This study captured a moment of Kuwait’s contemporary architectural reality by studying people’s understandings to traditional vernacular elements. In doing so it highlighted an unstable dichotomy between tradition and modernity. It also argues that without a fundamental change in government policy a more sustainable built environment may not be possible

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