August 28, 2017 - OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen - Centres for Traditional Music
e-flux Architecture
August 28, 2017
August 28, 2017

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen

Photos: Bas Princen.

Centres for Traditional Music

officekgdvs.com

Centres for Traditional Music

officekgdvs.com

Dar Al Jinaa and Dar Al Riffa are two similar buildings, part of a project of urban renewal in Bahrain. The ambition is to give a public face to the ancient community of pearl fishers, and their musical and cultural traditions. Each project consists of both the renovation of an existing Dar ("house"), and a new, added Majlis ("collective room"). The Majlis will be used as communal spaces for traditional music performances. Both buildings consist of a simple structure of round concrete columns and platforms. Rectangular folding glass facades, equipped with perforated wooden shutters, create intimate interior spaces on the platforms. Stairs, sanitary boxes and technical installations populate the exterior platforms, forming the furniture which makes this simple structure functional.

The entire building is covered by a seamless steel mesh, providing cover from the harsh desert sun, and transforming the buildings into enigmatic, "veiled" objects, protruding from the dense Bahraini urban maze. When the building is in use, the veil is lifted to allow passers-by a glimpse of the performances inside.

The buildings were commissioned in a recent effort by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities to preserve and make visible the heritage value in the old city of Muharraq, home of an ancient tradition of pearl fishers. The building is a stop in route which runs through Muharraq, the "Path of Pearl," which we developed in collaboration with landscape architects Bureau Bas Smets. 

The building itself is an extension of an existing music center, housed in a "Majlis," a modest and closed courtyard building which is part of the old city fabric. The community of pearl fishers have a specific musical tradition based on trance-like combination of singing and percussion, which has been practiced for centuries in places like this. The main role of the extension is to make the performances more visible, opening them up to the city fabric.

The form was reached as simple stacking of functions: a series of supported platforms on which the main rooms are introduced as "boxes," with the lowest floor being the performance hall. The passerelle which runs around them functions both as circulation and for sun protection, and becomes smaller towards the top where functions are more private. This, in combination with the veiling of the whole structure by the steel mesh, gives the building its characteristic shape.

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