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."
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."
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."
"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. "