The Cube: Traditional Arabic Architecture Gets a Modern Update
Traditional Islamic patterns come together with modern geometric forms in one very striking home design called The Cube. Egyptian architect Ahmed Habib of Kuwaiti firm Lines began with the idea of a solid concrete block and imagined chiseling away voids within it until he came up with a residence that felt simultaneously protected and open, all contained within a single outer shape while remaining connected to the outdoors. The result puts a contemporary spin on the external courtyards commonly found in customary Arabic houses.
From outside, the house is defined by its geometry, looking almost monumental in form. The cutouts give it a lightness in terms of air flow, natural daylight, and weight. Commissioned as a private residence for one of the firm’s clients, the project gave Habib an opportunity to “redefine the image of residential buildings in Kuwait,” which he says are all similar in style and less visually interesting than they could be.
The architect describes the two stone walls as “imposing,” taking inspiration from ancient temples to create an approach with a moat-like bridge to the house’s main entrance. The structure itself is made of concrete and honed silver travertine stone, while black steel, off-white stucco, desaturated brown stucco, matte walnut wood, and double-glazed glass add textural details in areas like the central black metal screen and the walls that line the courtyard. The built area of the property measures over 20,000 square feet and stands nearly 50 feet tall.
This semi-enclosed space is both lush and orderly, featuring two green walls, a grassy surface, palm trees, and tropical foliage adjacent to areas set up for outdoor dining and lounging. Floor-to-ceiling glazing allows several of the interior spaces to look out upon this greenery.
“The conceptual idea was to explore the architectural relation between solid and void through the addition and subtraction within a cube, creating a dialogue between indoor and outdoor,” says Habib. “The floor plan design is based on two shifted masses, creating an internal atrium (which includes an air conditioning system that will help to enjoy the garden experience throughout the year) and two external courts in the front and rear inspired by traditional houses.”
“Architecture is all about creating a good quality environment, and I believe it has a direct impact on human psychology. Space, form, materials, colors, lighting, acoustics, and many more architectural elements play a big role on the psychology and behavior of an individual. Architecture is the art that can change the world around us.”
The Cube won a 2019 Gold A’ Design Award in the architecture, building, and structure design category for its creative approach to reimagining the traditional vernacular architecture of Kuwait. Construction on the project is set to begin shortly.
Habib is known for his work on large-scale projects throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. He is currently the managing and design director of architecture at Lines.