Wednesday, 20 June 2007

My second favorite building in Bahrain

Client: Al Zamil Group
Project Description: 2 linked office towers with parking spaces that creates a new gateway to Manama Souq
Architect & Civil Consultants: Gulf House Engineering
Project Manager & Quantity Surveyor: Hisham Abdul Rahman Jaffar
Main Contractor: Chapo
Electromechanical Services: Gemac
Completion Date: 2004
Project Cost: BD 8 million ($ 21.2 million)

This is my second favorite building in Bahrain. I've been trying to find some info about it but couldn't find anything on the net other than this promotional site... If you see my first favorite building (which I also couldn't find a lot about it on the net) you'll see a striking resemblance, yet they are completely different. Almost the same materials are used in both buildings yet you have 2 different experiences. And this is what modern Arabic architecture or Islamic architecture in the Gulf should look like. Buildings should relate to each other, they should relate to their surroundings, and most importantly they should relate to the inhabitants.

Both buildings have this idea of combining the old with the new... in the Zamil tower the new emerges from the old... so when you see the lower levels you'll see stone cladding with detailed geometric decorations that are known in Islamic architecture, and as you go to the upper levels the building gets stripped of those details to reveal a modern aluminum structure with tinted glazing as a gesture to relate new materials and technology with old traditional ones. However, in Batelco building you see abstract forms and shapes that resembles the traditional architectural elements from the lowest to the highest level of the building, it uses few details to achieve symbolic abstract geometry.

When you see the Zamil Tower or Batelco building there is no doubt in your mind that you are in an Arabic Islamic country... these sort of buildings give identity... identity gives soul and character... and that's what attracts people from other cultures. Its not just the glazed skyscrapers and the complexity of the shapes of the buildings that makes you admire the engineering work which will attract tourists and investors... that helps of course and its good to have some of it but not to the extent that it becomes the theme of the city... otherwise you'll have a generic city and although many may think that is a positive thing I don't believe stripping new emerging cities of their identities is the best way to go.

Rem Koolhas says that the generic city is a multi-national city... its population is mixed and that is why obsessing with giving the city identity should not be the dominant feature in architecture... he goes on to say that a small part of the city should be dedicated to old things like those London buses or telephone booth but that part is a sort of amusing park or outdoor museum... I would prefer to have it the other way around... to have a city with a strong identity which is revealed in the people and the architecture... and have a small part of that city freed of this identity where developers and architects can be free to show off their designing and engineering skills along with their big wallets by building whatever they want... and that area could be an outdoor exhibition. A good example of this that comes to my mind is Paris, walk through the Champs-Élysées and tell me can you get more French than that... then go to La Défense and see the difference.

1 comment:

Ali Lari said...

Excellent comparison with Paris... I agree with your point of view.