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Reima Pietilä's 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kuwait

History and Development

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). 

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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Kuwait. Architects: Reima and Raili Pietilä. Top: the complex as it stood in 1985 and underneath, as it stands in 2020. Scroll down to watch the transformations.

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.

Reima Pietilä

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

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Transcultural Architecture


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


No photos of the front facade are extant except these two taken from the plaza.

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Street facade (Plan from 1983). Accomplished accordingly in 1986 though the color was sand-yellow.

Same part of the above facade after modifications in late 1990s (photo from 2011).

During further renovations in December 2016.

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Accomplished new design in 2020

More photos of the present situation

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East facade with clock tower

Old vs. New:

The Corridors


Detail of facade in 1986


Same detail in 2011



Half open corridor in 1986

Same corridor after additions in 1994


Old vs. New:

The Fountains


Courtyard in 1986


With artifical grass in 2017

Same courtyard in 2012


Coral fountain in 1986


Same fountain since probably 1993. Now demolished

West facade:

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:

North facade as planned and built

Same detail in 2017. The fountain has disappeared.

North facade in 2017

East facade:

After modifications in 2014

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Same facade during new modifications in 2018

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In 2020

Inside the complex



Terrace in 1986

Same place in 2011


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

Photos by Claudia Farkas Al-Rashoud (1986)


Slideshow 2017

Pictures from the Pietila Archive, Helsinki

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