On 16th February, members of the jury of Bab al Bahrain Open Ideas Competition, hosted by Manama, the Capital of Arab Culture 2012, chose the winning proposals for the transformation of Bab Al Bahrain. Swiss architect Lukas Lenherr was awarded the first prize for his concept entitled Pearl Dive. The second prize was awarded to Italian architects Pier Paolo Tamburelli and Guido Tesio for their concept entitled Two Rooms while the third prize was awarded to the Dutch architectural firm Partizan Publik for New Times Square.
The opening event included the opening of an exhibition of selected entries in a public pavilion, as well as a roundtable discussion, in which members of the jury noted the diversity of entries, overall quality and intellectual presentation of the winning entries. The competition sparked international interest that spanned the different aspects of the profession with participation from architectural firms, individuals, urban planners and landscape architects. Of the 83 submissions received for the Bab al Bahrain Open Ideas Competition, 15 were from Bahrain in addition to substantial participations from other parts of the Arab world as well as Europe, the United States and South America.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, SeARCH founder Bjarne Mastenbroek pointed out "We were interested in this competition because it did not seek to perpetuate the expected and traditional models of public space, but instead allowed participants to re-consider what a civic space could be in a very specific political and historical context, triggering a debate on the role of public space in the contemporary city."
The debate on public spaces will continue through a series of events in Manama.
Below are a few images of the winning entries, as well as project descriptions from each team.
Lukas Lenherr, Pearl Dive
"This void, the heart of the project, is a vast open space of water. Its size makes up the entire competition perimeter. The excavated soil can be used for new offshore landfill."
"That void is accessible through divers activities like renting boats for sailing, paddling or artificial pearl diving. A tall water fountain (a present from the City of Geneva) is installed in the middle of the water to mark a centre of peace, a strong statement and maybe a reference to the pearl roundabout? A continuing promenade around the water invites people to enjoy this place. The promenade offers a variety of benches, gradients, stairs, ramps and also access to the water. Overall shadow is created with palm trees."
"Life in and around the "Pearl Dive" will be for old and young. It will offer places and spaces for sitting, lying, having a pick-nick, playing chess or backgammon, gathering, speaking, arguing, twittering, mailing, educating, learning, breathing, seeing, observing, smelling, hiding, kissing, celebrating, crying, listening, presenting, enjoying, dancing, laughing, running, performing, exploring, discovering… It is a certain re-location of historical moments; a certain re-dive into the past and a hint to the fast ongoing land reclamation. It is Rome's "Fontana di Trevi" for Manama, a new Tree of Life, and it will activate all adjoining neighbourhoods together with the old city of Manama and its historical Bab Al Bahrain."
Baukuh and Guido Tesio, Two Rooms
"The Bab Al Barhain square has no program, no content. Its complete programmatic indeterminacy allows a multitude of uses to take place in the square. Bab Al Barhain just needs a precise definition of its borders to allow a complex metropolitan program to appear. Formal precision will allow for free appropriation of space."
"Two new open air rooms appears at Bab Al Barhain, following the geography of the
context: a large room to the north and a smaller one to the south.
The two rooms are defined by a 10 m high wall following the perimeter of the competition
site. The two rooms offer different conditions and dimensions: a huge open air venue for
public events and festivals, a forest of palm trees, a smaller square fitting to the historical
part of the city. This set of spaces is entirely public and deliberately monumental. As in a
Roman Forum the external wall allows for the easy incorporation of subsidiary elements
with different programs and the insertion of a multitude of "exceptions" that provide the
rooms with a lively atmosphere.
As interior spaces the two rooms will grow accumulating the traces of the life of their
visitors. The simplicity of the spaces and the purity of the walls will be transformed in time
by everyday rituals, both private and public, old and new."
"The two rooms are plural from the very beginning. The rooms do not represent anything; they just let things appear. Like decompression chambers, they realize a clean, rarefied condition, where the different desires of the city can come to the surface. While calling for private exploration and appropriation, the two rooms try to define a shared figure where the traces of all populations of contemporary Barhain can be recorded."
Partizan Publik and Dus Architects, New Times Square
"The TV series Arab Idols and, more recently, the Arab Spring show the activation of a silent majority of people. Through Facebook-ing, Twitter-ing and sms-ing an identity in the Gulf region is claimed and new symbolism is produced. Thus through the intermediation of social media there's a new sense of public-ness, also in Bahrein. "
"In the past, through its connection to the sea, the Bab al Bahrain square was a worldly, an open and a commercial place. But now it's landlocked, facing inward, and as such the global influences are lost. The contemporary Bab Al Bahrain square is merely the domain of the car. Our design restores the connection to the outside world as the square is programmed through social media. "
"By means of online chatting, twittering or sms–ing visitors of the square are invited to make the space into something of their own. An online time and space program facilitates the individual's public desires. In a poetic way the identity of the square is re-designed. Through play, participation and, perhaps, sometimes resistance, citizens give shape to the symbolic environment of the Bab Al Bahrain square in bottom – up way. Celebrating new times of cultural globalization. "