Wednesday, 30 May 2007

My favourite building in Bahrain

Client: Batelco
Project Description: 8 levels mixed use building including car park, shopping mall and offices
Consultant: Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau
Contractor: G. P. Zachariades (Overseas) Ltd.
Completion Date: 1996??

I was thinking about my favourite building in Bahrain. I thought about the Bahrain World Trace Center, the Bahrain Financial Harbor and other new developments. But none of them touched my heart like this building. I mean most of the buildings in Bahrain today are taking the shapes of sails, boats, fish and other sea creatures... Which is justified since Bahrain is an island and the sea was once the main source of living... Not anymore though...

What I see in this building is a great step of what Bahrain's Architecture should move towards. A pure Islamic architecture that reflects the society's values and the vernacular traits of the island. Look at the carefully studied poetic reflection of the minaret in the glazing... Its as if the building was deliberately designed to embrace the mosque next door (Yateem mosque is designed by a famous Egyptian architect called Abdul Wahid AlWakeel. The cladding material is flamed white granite panels which has a strong resemblance to the traditional materials used in Bahrain. The decorative wooden mashrabiya at the entrance, the simplicity of the exterior, the geometric play with squares, all relate to the essence of what Islamic architecture is about.

The most important feature in my opinion is the balance between the glazing and the granite cladding. The glass takes up a decent amount of the facade which allows natural daylight, in addition to two atria that enhances the lighting quality which improves the interior space and saves lighting energy as well. Yet its not overdone that the entire building is wrapped with glass like some of the emerging buildings that are being erected today in Bahrain. Bahrain is an extremely hot country and we can't afford transparent buildings that will feel like ovens inside them and relying on mechanical air conditioners to live in those buildings... We have to adopt a more sustainable approach to our architecture... And this building is a great step in that journey...

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