In an era where modernism frequently overshadows cultural heritage, the necessity for architecture to act as a mediator between the past and the present is more crucial than ever. A perfect exemplification of this ethos is found in Bahrain’s Centre for Traditional Music. Conceived by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, this project is a testament to how architecture can not only preserve culture but elevate it.
Centre for Traditional Music Technical Information
- Architects1: OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen
- Location: Muharraq, Bahrain (Dal Al Jinaa) | Riffa, Bahrain (Dal Al Riffa)
- Topics: Cultural Centers
- Area: Dar Al Jinaa 600 m2 | Dar Al Riffa 340 m2
- Project Year: 2012 – 2016
- Photographs: © Bas Princen
As part of an effort to preserve the cultural legacy of Bahrain, this project called for an extension of a Dar (‘house’), one of a few remaining communal places where groups of men gather to perform traditional music.
– OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen Architects
Centre for Traditional Music Photographs
A Synthesis of Tradition and Modernity in Bahrain
In an endeavour to protect and perpetuate Bahrain’s cultural legacy, this project called for an extension of a Dar (‘house’), a communal space where men assemble to perform traditional music. The Centre is a combined project of renovation and extension, funded by the Bahrain Ministry of Culture.
The existing Dar, a semi-private dwelling featuring rooms organized around a common courtyard, is sensitively renovated. Simultaneously, an adjacent new structure is built to accommodate the burgeoning need for a public space dedicated to traditional music.
In a departure from the original layout, the extension is designed as a stacked sequence of rooms, surrounded by ancillary spaces like stairs, toilets, and ventilation machines. These central rooms, characterized by wooden floors, are enveloped by folding glass walls. An enclosing colonnade of round concrete columns lends an ethereal aesthetic while serving a functional role. Interspersed among these columns are “dummy” variants housing essential ductwork.
Taking into account Bahrain’s climate, the outer skin of the building is rendered in painted steel mesh. This curtain serves a dual purpose: it mitigates the harsh effects of sunlight while adding a theatrical layer that can be raised to mark entrances to the performance spaces.
The two upper floors, designed to accommodate offices and temporary residences, gradually decrease in area, conferring upon the building its unique stepped profile—a silhouette that is not only aesthetically striking but also resonates with local architectural traditions.
It is worth noting that the success of this project led to its replication in another location but on a grander scale. Thus, the Centre for Traditional Music serves not just as an architectural accomplishment but as a model for cultural preservation.
The Centre for Traditional Music in Bahrain stands as a beacon for what architecture can achieve when harmonizing modern design with traditional culture. In balancing the old and the new, the project encapsulates the enduring spirit of Bahrain, offering a space where music, community, and architecture coalesce into a resonant whole.
A masterpiece in its own right, this building demonstrates how the built environment can serve as the most beautiful stage for life’s performances
Centre for Traditional Music Plans
Centre for Traditional Music Image Gallery
About OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen
OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen is a Brussels-based architectural firm founded in 2002 by Kersten Geers and David Van Severen. Renowned for their minimalist approach and conceptual rigour, the firm engages in projects that range from exhibitions and temporary installations to large-scale urban interventions. They adopt a cross-disciplinary methodology, often incorporating elements from art, literature, and sociology to enrich the spatial and contextual quality of their work. The firm has gained international recognition for its innovative designs, such as the Centre for Traditional Music in Bahrain, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, solidifying their reputation as thought leaders in contemporary architecture.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Collaborators: Nourah Alsayeh, Emaar Engineering