Architects filed lawsuit to preserve Kuwait's architectural identity

Al-Sawaber Complex

KUWAIT: Young Kuwaiti architects filed a lawsuit to preserve Kuwait's architectural identity by halting the demolishment of Al-Sawaber Complex. Many supporters attended the judicial hearing yesterday at the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City. The National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) has issued an official directive halting further demolition works at Sawaber prior to its delivery to the contractor according to law no. 11/1960 that classifies the complex as a modern heritage site which must be preserved.

During the hearing, architect Faisal Al-Mjali explained to the judges the importance of Sawaber Complex to Kuwait's modern architectural identity. He said he is just one of many architects who are interested in architectural and heritage buildings in Kuwait that have a historical dimension. He said negligence by the Ministry of Finance and Kuwait Municipality led to the deterioration of the site without any justification, despite the fact that meetings were held with various entities stating the urgency and necessity of preserving the site.

"We started this movement and met officials at the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters as the competent body according to the law, because they have the ability to determine whether buildings should be preserved or not. They responded quickly and conducted studies and examinations of Al-Sawaber, and addressed the ministry of finance, municipality and other concerned departments," Mjali told Kuwait Times.

"All of them supported us at first, but we were surprised that the next day they violated the law, when the site was handed over to a demolition contractor and demolition began. We are an important group in the society. There is a law that protects us and the constitution is our guarantee. Unfortunately, this law is not implemented in government institutions and they do not care about the NCCAL, which represents us. We demand the implementation of the antiquities law no. 11/1960 that classifies the site as a modern heritage site," he added.

Mjali said there is a period in the history of Kuwait called the era of modernity. This historical period is part of its heritage, as seen in post-oil buildings over the past 40 years. "In 2015, a conference was held in the presence of UNESCO and under the auspices of the NCCAL about urban areas related to modern heritage in Arab countries. Among the tours that the government of Kuwait held for the delegations included Sawaber Complex, so Kuwait is aware of the importance of this building, but they choose to ignore it," he said. "We believe in the fairness of the court and we are optimistic the demolition will stop until the case is heard. We accept the justice of the court, and we have resorted to the courts only after the indifference shown by government institutions."

By Faten Omar