A LANDMARK centre that will portray the very essence of Kuwait and its oil heritage in a state-of-the-art complex is well on its way to completion at a prominent location in Ahmadi, Kuwait.
The Ahmad Al Jaber Oil and Gas Exhibition Centre, being built for the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), is now 90 per cent complete and is scheduled for completion in mid-2015.
The centre, located near the entrance to Ahmadi township, is designed to replace the national oil company’s oil display facility which was first built in 1956.
“KOC’s oil display centre in Ahmadi has undergone four major refurbishments and in 2005 KOC took the decision to build a new centre incorporating the latest technology and interactive displays that are seen in major international exhibition centres,” George Abi Hanna, resident director and senior partner of Kuwait-based SSH tells Gulf Construction.
SSH, a leading architecture and engineering firm, is responsible for supervision and management of the project in association with Projacs, a Pan-Arab project and construction management firm, and Event, an international exhibition consultant.
Given the nature of the building, KOC was keen to ensure that the new exhibition centre would be housed in a landmark building that would fit into the Ahmadi vernacular, according to Abi Hanna.
The complex would serve as a scientific institute that would narrate the history of oil to students, researchers, VIPs, and the general public. It would depict the story of Kuwait’s oil industry, how oil is extracted, and focus on the importance of oil and its derivatives. It would also relate Kuwait’s history and culture, as well as the history of its oil companies, while highlighting the importance of energy and conservation.
Strategically positioned in the northeast sector of Ahmadi township, the 65,120-sq-m site for the project is accessed from the main Fahaheel-Ahmadi Highway 212. The building’s front entrance faces the east towards the Gulf, the north faces the new Ahmadi Hospital, to the far west is a residential area hidden from view by a row of trees, and to the near south are government offices. Approached through a new roundabout and a tree-lined boulevard, the landmark building with a floor area of approximately 8,800 sq m comprises a basement level, ground and first floors and nine gallery levels.
Circular in form, the building rises to a viewing level approximately 16 m from the ground floor and will provide a focal point to the area. The basement, ground and first floors will accommodate a theatre, a multi-purpose hall, meeting rooms, a visiting exhibition area, VIP and VVIP rest areas and a banquet area, prayer rooms, a learning centre and library, a gift shop, cafe, media centre, ATM machines and administration offices.
Most of the nine galleries levels will have dedicated themes, taking visitors through the various milestones in the story of oil, namely Gallery Two – ‘Origins of Oil’; Gallery Three – ‘Discovery of Oil’; Gallery Five – ‘Extraction to Refining’; Gallery Six – ‘Products’; Gallery Seven – ‘Centrum’; Gallery Eight – ‘Heroes of Fire’; and Gallery Nine – ‘Future of Oil’.
Apart from these, Gallery One will focus on providing an ‘Entrance Experience’, while Gallery Four will serve as a viewing platform.
Externally, the centre includes a children’s play area themed on oil and provides 250 car-parking spaces, dedicated VIP, disabled and staff parking facilities as well as coach parking area for 20 buses. It also features landscaped gardens, and external oil artefact displays (nodding donkey, ‘Christmas Tree’ and full-size oil rig), a symbolic oil line, a rock water feature and recreational space.
A high level of security will be ensured through electronic barriers, road bollards and CCTV (closed circuit television) surveillance. Other facilities include a standalone substation, chiller compound, and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and cryogenic tanks.
KOC and its design team developed a building concept derived from ammonite, an extinct group of marine invertebrate animals that lived some 120 million years ago.
So why ammonite? Abi Hanna explains: “The formation of oil originates from these sea creatures which helped to form the oil we find today.
“Ammonite serves as the symbolic and aesthetic inspiration for the building design with the rooms distributed on the periphery of the structure and the surrounding central spaces housing the exhibitions galleries that are located in a spiral formation.
“The circular shape of the building, internal circulation and flow around the building reflects the ammonite’s spiral structure, with its rich gold, red and brown colours influencing both the interior and exterior use of materials. The concept was also influenced by the Middle East’s old city walls that protected the cities.”
Among the highlights of the complex is the symbolic oil line, made of black polished granite, which runs from the ‘Christmas Tree’ at the outside entrance. “It leads the visitor down a tree-lined boulevard to a natural large rock water feature, and then to the entrance where the first exhibition is a huge 180-degree LED (light emitting diode) display to entertain visitors as they prepare to experience the history of oil in Kuwait,” Abi Hanna explains.
The designer was required to provide interactive exhibition spaces, which had to be multi-lingual, welcoming, and easy to navigate. “It had to be a place to discover science related to oil exploration – part exhibition, part scientific, part play and part discovery centre. The centre also had to incorporate the latest technology for the displays, have ‘wow’ factors, holograms, touch-screens, interactive tables and views of the existing oilfields physically and through video,” he emphasises.
The viewing gallery on top of the building has interactive binoculars that highlight various features in the nearby oilfields such as a tank farm and a refinery.
Construction of this landmark building was not without its challenges, given its shape and stature.
As the building was circular in shape, round shutter formwork was used for concrete casting, says Abi Hanna. But above all, Kuwait’s extreme climatic conditions presented some of the major challenges, due to the high temperatures and limited working hours during the summer months as well as the sandstorms throughout the year.
Some 500 workers were on site at the peak of construction, supported by a fleet of construction equipment that included two excavators, a tower crane, two mobile cranes, 15 trucks, two graders, six water tanks, four Bobcats, and two asphalt and concrete millers. Construction of the building has required some 12,250 cu m of concrete, 510 tonnes of steel, 125 sq m of aluminium and glazing, 2,730 sq m of bricks and blocks, 15,500 sq m of plasterboard dry lining/partitions, 12,400 linear m of pipes and 36,300 linear m of cables as well as 120 earthwork supports.
To ensure client satisfaction and that quality standards are maintained, SSH has allocated proficient resources and is implementing advanced management and monitoring techniques on the project.
“SSH always adopts a proactive professional attitude, in order to ensure that project quality, scope, programme, safety and cost as well as environment standards are maintained,” Abi Hanna adds.
SSH specialises in the delivery of world-class construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. The multidisciplinary firm has more than 50 years of expertise in architecture, engineering, infrastructure and construction supervision.
Founded in Kuwait in 1961, the practice has expanded to become one of the Mena region’s leading architecture and engineering firms. It is ranked within the top 100 global consultancies by World Architecture magazine and in the top five in the Mena region for 2014.
SSH employs over 800 people with offices in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria and South Africa.