10 Year Award of Excellence: Al Hamra Tower, Kuwait City
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, New York City
COO, Board Member
Al Hamra Real Estate Company, Kuwait City
Thermally Efficient and Structurally Innovative
Al Hamra Tower is the tallest building in Kuwait. A desire to maximize views of the Arabian Gulf while minimizing solar heat gain inspired the building’s asymmetrical form, which calls to mind the traditional robes worn by Kuwaitis. A quarter of each floor plate is chiseled out of the south side, shifting from west to east over the height of the building. The result reveals a rich, monolithic stone at the south wall framed by the graceful, twisting “ribbon” walls that gesture toward the sky. The tower welcomes tenants with a soaring 20-meter-tall lobby with a lamella structure that supports the tower above and articulates the space below.
Prominently located on Kuwait City’s peninsula, Al Hamra Tower is surrounded by the Kuwait Bay on three sides. The developer sought to create a dynamic mixed-use development, anchored by an office tower that would provide dramatic views to the water. When it comes to supertall buildings, structural demands increase as the building meets the ground. When a tower is loaded asymmetrically, the challenges multiply significantly. As Al Hamra’s design became more sculptural, it became clear that the gravitational loads on the concrete flare walls on the southwest corner would be greater than those on the north and southeast walls. In response, a 60-by-70-meter, 4-meter-thick raft made of reinforced concrete was designed. A decade later, this structural solution remains highly innovative. The tower’s sustainability goals have also proven to endure within the building’s desert climate. The concrete spine faces the sun and stores heat. Its thickness creates a thermal lag between the temperatures of ambient air and inner wall, so that when the outside of the wall is exposed to the most severe sun, the interior wall can remain comfortably cool.