Excerpt: Edges Apartments, designed by Studio Toggle, has an articulated brick cladded façade and lights up the streets of Salmiya, a predominantly expat neighborhood in Kuwait. The facade’s irregular form was influenced by practical considerations including the disruption of strong prevailing winds, and the provision of shade and privacy. A vertical strip of aluminum louvers splits the building’s frontage into two halves, denoting the divide between homes on the north and south sides of the property.
[Text as submitted by architect] The Edges Apartment, with its articulated brick cladded façade, lights up the streets of Salmiya, a predominantly expat neighborhood in Kuwait. A simple rhythmic twist, achieved by transposition of the vertices on either side of a finite axis, imparts dynamism and drama to the façade. A very restrained palette of locally sourced natural brick and exposed concrete finish further emphasizes the purity of the mass and gives the building its unique personality.
The facade’s irregular form was also influenced by practical considerations including the disruption of strong prevailing winds, and the provision of shade and privacy. A vertical strip of aluminum louvers splits the building’s frontage into two halves, denoting the divide between homes on the north and south sides of the property. The louvers protect the central staircase from direct sunlight, but also restrict views into this glass-lined circulation space.
On the ground floor, an exposed lobby adjacent to the parking area provides access to the staircase, lifts and a communal gym, which faces the street and is partially shielded behind more metal louvers. The lobby’s glass-reinforced concrete ceiling incorporates recessed lighting in an angular channel that directs residents and visitors toward the various entrances and continues the sharp lines of the facade. Patinated concrete floor tiles coated with clear epoxy resin form a hardy surface that complements the brick. A patio to the rear of the building accommodates a small open-air swimming pool. The building is 10 story high, housing 20 two-bed apartments.
OUTLINE OF CLIENT’S VISION:
The client commissioned us to design an apartment building as an investment property that will be rented out to main expats. The design had to be practical, low maintenance, and suited to the expat lifestyle in Kuwait. A distinct street presence was an important requirement to distinguish it from the generic buildings that surround it. The client also wanted a large kitchen and living space for all the bedrooms, which goes against the grain in expat housing in Kuwait. A sea view for living areas for the upper floors was possible and had to be incorporated. The budget was extremely restrictive and the client insisted on the usage of maintenance free and hard wearing locally sourced materials.
The site is located along one of Salmiya’s congested roads. About 400 meters away from the sea, it is also flanked by the American University of Kuwait and a secondary school. The multispecialty hospital is also in the near vicinity. All these along with a dense cluster of apartment buildings of similar size make it a relatively busy area. Noise and traffic were a real concern and so was parking. Pedestrian access and car parking spaces are barely considered of important as part of the urban area, creating a sense of disorder. The urban fabric consisted of dense generic clusters of apartment blocks without any street presence.
The region’s extreme climatic conditions contribute to the existing difficulties and challenges the site has to offer, with the occasional dust storms and hot desert winds which affect the building and its surroundings.
The design of the edges apartment takes into consideration the challenges posed by the brief and the context and uses it to inform the design. Apart from developing a maintenance free architectural layout, we decided that the façade design was of paramount importance and that it had to be aesthetically pleasing while being functional and conforming to the restrictive budget. Hence we developed a simple articulated scheme in which the edges of the building are transposed in a rhythmic order. This gave the massing a decidedly edgy character, which was further enhanced by the decision to use brick as a cladding. This articulation on the façade not only creates a sense of dynamism but also achieves more directional viewpoints and acts as a windbreaker to the strong winds arriving from the sea on the northwest. These elements help the building to stand out in a very narrow streetscape.
On the ground floor, an exposed lobby adjacent to the parking area provides access to the staircase, lifts and a communal gym, which faces the street and is partially shielded behind aluminum louvers. The lobby’s glass-reinforced concrete ceiling incorporates recessed lighting in an angular channel that directs residents and visitors toward the various entrances and continues the sharp lines of the facade.
The choice of local brick and exposed concrete also responds to budgetary constraints and the need to employ simple construction methods.
The challenge was to give the building an instantly recognizable identity at the same time respecting an extremely restrictive budget. Functionality and serviceability were also as important. The building had to withstand the unforgiving summer heat of Kuwait made unbearable also by the occasional dust/sand storm.
The ventilated brick cladding with a weatherproof coating acts as effective thermal protection as well as being hardy enough, along with the exposed concrete finishes, to withstand the harsh desert climate. The major windows are recessed to block out the direct sun and Aluminum louvers are employed wherever possible to reduce the heat gain and the glare. Through its alternation and transposition on the vertices, shade is achieved for floors below during all times of the day, reducing direct sunlight into the living areas.
The materials used comprise of a very restrained palette of locally sourced fired brick and fair-faced concrete. Respecting the budgetary constrained a low tech approach was used considering sustainable material choices and energy consumption.
FULFILLING THE BRIEF
The edges apartment maintains its unique personality amongst the surrounding dense urbanity despite its extremely simple program and restrictive budget, to the point it has become some sort of a landmark.
The client’s preferences for local, hard wearing honest material were met through the choice of simple brick and concrete facades which also makes it maintenance free and shields it from dust and heat.
The project also respects its requirement to maximize the rentable space while enhancing the quality of life for the tenants. The edges apartment practically disrupted the urban fabric in hopes of instigating future projects to do so similarly, in an attempt to organize and transform the typology.