Park revival in Kuwait, storytelling in Nigeria and the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Hyperloop.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 a massive infrastructure project in the capital’s green belt was halted and the area’s park was left a construction site. “When the park reopened it never had the same relation to the city,” says Ricardo Camacho, a Portuguese landscape designer who was enlisted by the emir of Kuwait’s office in 2011 to help revitalise Al Shaheed Park.
Phase two of the project was delivered in April and now it comprises swathes of greenery, jogging paths, two museums and an amphitheatre. “The vision was to offer people an alternative to shopping malls and for the park to be as permeable as possible,” says Camacho, adding that it also acts as a transition from the downtown to the city’s periphery. The plan is to reclaim some of Kuwait City’s green belt as part of an effort to reconnect with a time before the Gulf War. “Rehabilitation is at the core of the agenda,” says Camacho.
The oily waters off Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta may seem an unusual place for an innovative media outfit. Yet film-maker Michael Uwemedimo’s Chicoco Radio – comprising a radio station, recording studios and cinema – looks to enable the city’s poorer residents to tell their stories, especially as many face eviction as the slums are erased to make way for upscale housing.
Currently in temporary digs, Chicoco will eventually move into a striking cantilevered building see-sawing into the creek, with a lower end floating on the water. Designed by Kunlé Adeyemi of nlé in Amsterdam, it echoes his award-winning floating school built in Lagos lagoon.
More than 4,000 cars make the two-hour journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi every day, snarling up streets on both sides of the highway. The uae has enlisted Elon Musk’s Tesla to develop a Hyperloop between the cities, promising to whizz people across the Emirates in a breakneck 12 minutes. But given this technology is still far from being realised, the problem isn’t going to be fixed soon.
The uae should opt for the simpler solution of using rolling stock. Dubai already has metro and tram networks, which could plug neatly into a sleek rail link with Abu Dhabi.
Vera Baboun is the first female mayor of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, which is facing enormous challenges. She’s trying to improve life for its 30,000 inhabitants despite being hemmed in by a separation wall with Israel and the encroachment of settlements.
What are the biggest challenges facing Bethlehem?
A municipality needs land in order to provide the services people need – parks, schools, everything. We’ve worked hard to increase the size of the municipal borders of Bethlehem from 5.7 sq km to 8 sq km today.
How are you improving life for residents?
Bethlehem has a serious traffic problem and is the only district without a wastewater plan so we are working on this at the moment. It’s not an easy process: there are 19 Israeli settlements in the district that exist at the expense of land that we should be able to use.
Unemployment in Bethlehem is the highest in the West Bank. How are you helping?
We have taken the tourist bus station back from the private sector. The new industrial zone is important too. But it is not me alone who can work a miracle: it is a collective effort.