Pearling Site Museum and Entrance / Valerio Olgiati

by | 02. May 2019

Bahrain | Concrete | Museum
The building cuts an interesting figure in the context of modern Muharraq. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

The building cuts an interesting figure in the context of modern Muharraq. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

Tightly woven into the dense urban fabric of old Muharraq in Bahrain, the Pearling Site Museum and Entrance by Valerio Olgiati Architect offers a novel take on how architecture can give new forms of representation to contextually relevant public space.

 

The roof of the museum defines a new kind of public space. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

The roof of the museum defines a new kind of public space. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

Pearling – diving or fishing for pearl oysters – found an epicentre in Muharraq at a time when the pearl trade dominated the Persian Gulf economy. While this activity saw a decline by the 1930s, Muharraq is now home to a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to pearling’s social, cultural and economic significance in the region. The city presents some of the more accessible aspects of its pearling heritage in the form of ‘the pearling path’; a 3.5km long trail connecting three oyster beds and 17 buildings in Muharraq’s historic core. Forming a midpoint to this trail is a new building by Valerio Olgiati Architect – a hybrid of visitor’s centre, museum, and public space.

 

The roof of the building is defined by sculptural openings of varying sizes. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

The roof of the building is defined by sculptural openings of varying sizes. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

Described by the architects as “an urban room for the people of Muharraq with the scale of a public park” the building is conceptually grounded and organised by one clear architectural idea – its roof. Raised 10m off the ground by a forest of sculptural columns and perforated by a constellation of geometric openings, the roof both defines the physical extent of the building and carves out a new kind of public space in the heart of Muharraq. Presented underneath the vast concrete canopy is a museum space, and an amara – a series of ruins that were once a warehouse, factory and marketplace. The height and extent of this public ceiling gives the space an appropriately civic dimension, providing a “natural locus” within the dense city of Muharraq.

However, the emphasis on the roof is more than just architectural semantics – the roof also allows for precious shade from the harsh outdoor climate. Many of the columns bearing the roof extend upward to form wind towers, drawing cool air down into the covered area below. This gives the building an opportunity to form a truly public outdoor space – a sad rarity in many gulf cities.

 

Looking at the roof plan (above) and the site plan (below) one can see how the roof defines the entire extent of the building. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Drawings: Archive Olgiati

Looking at the roof plan (above) and the site plan (below) one can see how the roof defines the entire extent of the building. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Drawings: Archive Olgiati

Looking at the roof plan (above) and the site plan (below) one can see how the roof defines the entire extent of the building. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Drawings: Archive Olgiati

 

The building’s roof, columns, walls and landscaping are a coloured, cast in-situ concrete that Olgiati has also used in other projects to great effect. Ranging from pink to red, to grey, the surfaces of the building bear the marks of the formwork used in its construction. Punching through the thin roof slab is a network of arrow-shaped holes oriented in different directions. This angular geometry is echoed in the sculptural columns and gently sloping walls that define both the perimeter of the building and the interior space containing the museum, an attention to detail that extends from the largest roof opening, to the smallest chamfer on the building’s external walls. Even the ventilation hatches in the museum’s interior echo the geometry of the roof openings.

 

Angular walls, columns, and roof all are made from the same coloured concrete mixture. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

Angular walls, columns, and roof all are made from the same coloured concrete mixture. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

The interior spaces of the museum share the same attention to detail and materiality. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

The interior spaces of the museum share the same attention to detail and materiality. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

Stripped back and almost archaic, the materiality and geometry of the building interrelate to form a consistent sense of interiority – one has the sense that the building is its own consistent universe with a clear formal language. In this building, Olgiati has used a refined sense of archaic simplicity to form a new kind of contextually relevant public space.

 

The materiality of the museum echoes the ruins of the amara it covers. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

The materiality of the museum echoes the ruins of the amara it covers. Pearling Site Museum and Entrance © 2019. Copyright: Valerio Olgiati Architect. Photography: Archive Olgiati

 

INFORMATION

CITYMuharraq
COUNTRYBahrain
ARCHITECTValerio Olgiati

CLIENT

CONTRACTOR