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AD Classics: Kuwait National Assembly Building / Jørn Utzon

17:00 - 13 January, 2019
AD Classics: Kuwait National Assembly Building / Jørn Utzon, Covered plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Covered plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees

This article was originally published on November 20,2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

No single building typology reveals as much about a nation’s political culture as the seat of its government. Parliamentary or palatial structures can tell stories of bureaucratic sprawl, autocratic excess, democratic openness, and anything in between. Kuwait’s National Assembly Building, the home of its popularly elected legislature, is no exception. Much like the nominally-democratic, effectively-oligarchic government it hosts, the building projects conflicting messages of accessibility and regionalist modernity, referencing traditions that don’t necessarily exist in the country and sometimes ending up in direct contradiction with itself. As an emblem of political culture, the building is thus perhaps too accurate in its reading of the Kuwaiti story, yielding a revealing insight into the complex political fabric of the country through its own eclectic bricolage of ideas.

Palmetto ornamentation of the debating chamber. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Roof detail above the public plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Interior corridor. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Section through the assembly hall + 16