Dotted around Kuwait City are six groupings of eye-catching water towers. Five are composed of striped mushroom-shaped towers, and a sixth features towers that look like they’re about to take off for Alpha Centauri, albeit in a retro sci-fi kind of way.
In 1953, the city set up two large seawater distillation plants. A lack of a piped water distribution system, however, meant that this water had to be transported to customers in tankers. So in 1965, a Swedish engineering firm was commissioned to build a modern water distribution system to connect the distillation plants to Kuwait City with an expansive system of water towers erected around the city.
But the Amir of Kuwait at the time, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed, didn’t want just any old water towers. He wanted structures that would also function as works of art—landmarks that would impart a sense of modernity and technological advancement upon all who gazed upon them.
The firm presented a number of tower designs, and two types were selected. Five of the groups, consisting of 31 towers in total, feature the so-called Mushroom Towers, completed in 1976. These vertically stripped towers do indeed resemble mushrooms, supported on shafts of varying heights. Each concrete tank has a capacity of 3,000 cubic meters, with the groups placed in strategic locations around the city.
Part of the reasoning behind the mushroom design was to create a kind of pillared hall, where shade was cast on the desert floor beneath the giant mushrooms. The idea was to create landscape gardens in the grounds beneath them, but not all of the groups have yet been decked out as such.
For the sixth and final tower group, the Amir wanted something even more impressive, as these were to stand prominently on the bay across from the Amir’s palace compound. The engineering firm presented a handful of designs, and the Amir chose one that wouldn’t look at all out of place in a retro sci-fi cityscape.
This group of three towers, known simply as the Kuwait Towers, was completed in 1979. The largest is a 607-foot concrete “needle” supporting two spheres along its length. The spheres themselves are clad in enameled steel plates, arranged in spiral patterns and in eight shades of blue, green and gray—a design chosen to imitate the mosaic surfaces of Islamic domes.
The lowest but largest sphere is divided in two; its upper half contains a restaurant, banquet hall, and indoor garden, while the lower half holds a large reservoir. The second and highest sphere holds no water, instead functioning as a rotating viewing platform and café. The second tower is 482 feet tall and serves only as a water tower. The third is a bare needle with no spheres, but does hold equipment and lighting that illuminates the other two towers.
Know Before You Go
The five groups of Mushroom Towers can be seen sprinkled around Kuwait City, and are typically admired from afar as nothing more than landmarks. The map coordinates above point to the Kuwait Towers, located in downtown Kuwait City, on the bay and just off Arabian Gulf Street in the Sharq District. The Viewing Sphere opens from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. The entrance fee is 3 Kuwaiti dinar (about $10 USD). The restaurant is free to enter and is open from 8 a.m. until midnight.