A Bit of Shine

Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre

The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre is poised to cash in on the country's rich cultural history by offering a space for a wide range of the arts.

In Kuwait City, October 2016, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC) opened its doors, a remarkable piece of architecture with four jewel-shaped buildings. A total investment of USD775 million was allocated by the Diwan Al-Amiri to reshape the cultural district of the city.

The center envisions offering a broad variety of cultural outlets, providing a space for performing arts and music, but also houses a library alongside a place dedicated to historical documents. In the midst of a spacious parkland setting, the center also offers a variety of leisure activities and a restaurant district. In close proximity to the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, the city now has two premises to build a new and modern cultural domain. The JACC was constructed over an area of 52,000sqm.

As the center is under the auspices of HH Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, he welcomed and celebrated the opening of the center. The ceremony leveraged Kuwait’s cultural heritage of theater in a modern, avant-garde, and experimental tradition, and had as special guest the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

Thus far, the JACC has had a line-up of both Kuwaiti and global performers, with the musical Cats as one of its flagship shows. As the Amir is vocal about youth empowerment, the JACC also provides a space for dialog and workshops on public speaking, giving the Kuwaiti youth a forum to speak. As more than a place for entertainment, the Amir wants the JACC to be a platform for educational and cultural exchange—a powerhouse for culture. In this regard, the venue fits in the New Kuwait Program, the latest strategic plan and outline for the future of Kuwait. The plan aims to lift Kuwait in international standards across the board, leveraging on a strong diversification program and empowering the youth. Opening up to the world and making the country more attractive as a tourist destination is part of that plan as well, having a world-class cultural center that is internationally appraised fits the plan nicely.

The flagship hall is the National Theatre, designed for large stage productions like opera, musicals, ballet, and dance, as well as the possibility of holding a large conference in style—with a seating capacity of 2,000. The Drama Theatre and Studio Theatre are smaller, intimate spaces, which, in addition to the performing arts, tailor to promenade events. The other signature space is the National Concert Hall, a traditional shoebox-shaped music center to accommodate all types of orchestras, bands, and ensembles. Other spaces include a recital hall, a multipurpose hall for conferences, a symposium, and cinema with a capacity of more than 1,000.
The center was designed by SSH Design, a Kuwaiti architectural firm with a broad presence in the MENA region. Chairman Omran Hayat said of the project: “We have large experience with cultural projects, but the delivery of JACC has certainly propelled us to a great international reputation in this segment of the market.” Kuwait remains SSH’s primary market, with Oman its second base, but over the past years it has worked in Dubai, Bahrain, and Qatar as well, whilst aiming for entry into Saudi Arabia. SSH delivered the JACC in 22 months.
With JACC, Kuwait aims to continue its legacy of the GCC’s custodian of arts and culture, and to take a leading role in bringing cultural events and an appreciation of the arts to the masses. In the words of prominent media figure and former Minister of Information, Mohammad Al-Sanousi: “JACC will be a shining beacon of cultural renaissance and usher a new era of artistic movements.”