Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait
History and Development
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Kuwait. Architects: Reima and Raili Pietila, 1985.
The development of this important building by a Finnish architect in Kuwait is a unique example of intercultural communication (or miscommunication) in architecture. This webpage documents the different steps that have been undertaken over many decades.
In my book, I reevaluate the Pietiläs’ Kuwait project thirty years after its completion and show that the Ministry buildings have undergone significant transformations.
Above: Photo of Ministry complex taken from the minaret of the newly built Grand Mosque in 1986.
The research has been presented in a chapter (70 pages) in my book Transcultural Architecture: The Limits and Opportunities of Critical Regionalism (Ashgate 2015)
See also: Conference paper "Pietila revisited... revisited.... Afterthoughts " (2018).
وزارة الشؤون الخارجية الشهيرة (التي بنيت عام 1986) من قبل المهندس المعماري الفنلندي ريما بييتيلا واردة في أهم الكتب الدولية في العمارة الحديثة. ولا تقل أهمية عن الجمعية الوطنية في أوتزون أو أبراج الكويت. منذ عام 2012 لقد زرت المباني والتقطت الصور. لم يسبق للمهندسين أو المتخصصين أن زاروا المباني منذ عام 1986
I discuss the urban plan of the Finnish architects, explain the difference between “Transcultural Architecture” and Critical Regionalism, and show how the Sief Palace Area project is related to those differences. In 2011, I revisited Pietilä’s Ministry of Foreign affairs in Kuwait, which no person with an interest in architecture has visited since 1986.
Pietilä Kuwait project consisted of two different tasks that were interrelated: the establishment of an urban plan for Kuwait and the construction of three buildings in the central part of the city. Second, the Sief Palace Buildings are a school case permitting reflection on the possibilities and limits of Critical Regionalism. The project started with the best intentions but ran into problems that can be considered as paradigmatic. Only a thorough analysis of the planning history, the context, the reception of the building as well as the architect’s theoretical ideas can clarify the complications from which this project has suffered.
The chapter also contains a 5000 words long subchapter providing a theoretical foundation of Transculturalism and, in architecture, its relationship with Critical Regionalism.
Preparing the photo exposition at Alvar Aalto University in Helsinki in November 2018.
Exposition curated by Gareth Griffith
Street facade (Plan from 1983). Accomplished accordingly in 1986. No photos of the front facade are extant except this one taken from the plaza.
Same part of the above facade after modifications in late 1990s (photo from 2011).
During further renovations in December 2016.
Accomlished new design in 2020
More photos of the present situation
East facade with clock tower
Old - New: Corridors
Detail of facade in 1986
Half open corridor in 1986
Old - New: Fountains
Same detail in 2011
Same corridor after additions in 1994
Courtyard in 1986
With artifical grass in 2017
Same courtyard in 2012
Coral fountain in 1986
Same fountain since probably 1993
West entrance in 2012 with fountain and an added small arch for service entrance. Another picture of the same West facade, still without the arch
Detail of west facade in 2012...
Same detail in 2017. The fountain has disappeared and the arch has been enlarged
North facade as planned and built
Same detail in 2017. The fountain has disappeared.
North facade in 2017
After modifications in 2014
Same facade during new modifications in 2018
Inside the complex
Terrace in 1986
Same place today
Main hall in 1986
Main hall in 2012. All tiles have been eliminated immediately after construction. The rugged ceiling shape has also been recitified.
East entrance in 2012.
Same spot in 2017
Pictures from the Pietila Archive, Helsinki
More writings on Kuwait