Excerpt: Jade by Studio Toggle is a housing project that defies urban congestion by introducing a new apartment typology with efficiently designed and comfortable flats. It successfully addresses the critical difficulties that affect Kuwait’s current multi-unit housing typology: a lack of identity, natural lighting, accessible green and common areas, ineffectively planned apartments that create inadequate living conditions, and insufficient parking.
[Text as submitted by architect] Jade is a midrise multi-unit residential building in Salmiya, Kuwait, that houses 20 independent residential units. Built on an 813 sq m plot, the building has a double basement parking, an open-plan ground floor with a gym and kids play area, 10 stories of residential units, and a rooftop social space with a 15m long pool and barbeque area. The exterior envelope of the building is a composite skin of light concrete, perforated aluminium panels, and high-performance glass panels. The design of the building aims to facilitate an urban and sustainable way of living for young families.
The building occupies a compact urban lot in a high-density area with close proximity to neighbouring buildings. The location straddles the upscale Arabian Gulf Road and the less affluent inner-city neighbourhoods. The site is confined by the main avenue, with considerable traffic on the west and a narrow side alley to the north. The placement of the building is determined by the existing plot constraints. Direct pedestrian access and the lobby face the broad avenue, while service access is accommodated through the side street, avoiding the inconvenience of traffic. The north and west facades are privileged for their open views and urban relations, defining the building’s image through an understated yet expressive design.
The living units are organised around the access core, with interior gardens connecting different living spaces. Social spaces face the main avenue and the sea, while private areas turn to the southeast side. Through the variation of patio and balcony positions, different floorplans are achieved. The singularity of living spaces becomes the essence of the project. Volumetric expression is explored to determine the formal language of the building.
The individuality expressed in the floorplans translates into the facades, creating a staggered composition that brings lightness to the tower volume with the dialogue between concrete, glass, and perforated metal panels. The north and west facades incorporate considerably larger openings to take advantage of the open views. While the south and east facades, restrained by neighbouring building proximity, have more controlled apertures, becoming critical factors in the façade variations.
The proposal follows a strict philosophy aimed at giving the optimal environmental response to the Kuwaiti climate. In this aspect, the architects decided to use passive systems to generate microclimates within the apartments. A careful analysis of the sun’s movements and the height of surrounding buildings helped develop the facade by employing strategic subtractive operations. The perforated metal cladding with a weatherproof coating acts as adequate thermal protection, along with the insulated concrete panels, to withstand the harsh desert climate.
An internal garden was strategically placed inside every apartment unit on the periphery to act as a sun barrier and funnel the wind to facilitate natural ventilation. The facade of the building and the internal gardens help control the microclimate in the liveable areas. The materials used comprise a very restrained palette of metal surfaces and concrete finishes, accounting for durability. Respecting the budgetary constraints, a low-tech approach was used, considering sustainable material choices and energy consumption.
Jade is designed to be a housing project that goes against the grain amongst the chaotic urban density. It successfully solves the crucial issues in Kuwait’s current multi-unit housing typology: lack of identity, natural lighting, accessible green and communal spaces, ineffectively planned apartments that create substandard living conditions, and insufficient parking. The building tackles these issues by creating a new apartment typology with efficiently designed and comfortable apartments with internal garden spaces.
The apartments are flooded with plenty of natural lighting, and passive cooling techniques create pleasant, habitable conditions. It disrupts the existing monotonous housing typologies by creating apartment units that have character and individuality. Tenants’ interaction is encouraged with social spaces incorporated into the ground and roof levels: furnished lobby spaces, accessible green spaces, a kids play area, a gym, a pool, etc.
The design explores a new typology by adapting and scaling up the traditional Middle Eastern courtyard house concept with Mashrabiyas (privacy screens) in a multi-level, multi-unit scenario without compromising the vernacular’s original qualities while combating the extreme weather typical in Kuwait.