Muharraq, Bahrain, is a city of rich heritage, particularly known for its pearling industry which once played a pivotal role in the Persian Gulf’s economy. Deeply rooted in this heritage is the Pearling Site Museum and Entrance, an architectural structure by the Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. This expansive project, spanning over 6700 square meters, serves not only as a museum but also as a monumental entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage Pearling Path.
Pearling Site Museum Technical Information
- Architects1-4: Valerio Olgiati
- Location: Muharraq, Bahrain
- Client: Bahrain authority of culture and antiquities
- Topics: Colored Concrete
- Area: 6,700 m2
- Project Completion Year: 2019
- Photographs: © Archive Olgiati
It is an urban room for the people of Muharraq with the scale of a public park. As a totality, the building creates a universe in itself that is the entrance for the Pearling Path and the city beyond.
– Valerio Olgiati
Pearling Site Museum Photographs
Valerio Olgiati’s Tribute to Muharraq’s Pearling Legacy
The design concept revolves around a mammoth 10-meter-high concrete canopy that stands as a protective shield against Bahrain’s scorching sun. Supported by a maze of intricately designed concrete columns, this canopy casts vital shadows, providing a much-needed respite for the people of Muharraq. While the canopy is, in Olgiati’s words, “an archaic gesture”, it seamlessly blends functionality with aesthetic appeal. The geometric perforations punctuating the canopy allow for patches of light, painting a dynamic play of shadows on the ground.
But Olgiati’s design is more than just a canopy. The structure embodies an “urban room,” echoing the scale of a sprawling public park. Encased within this “room” is an enigmatic house, home to the museum dedicated to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. It serves as a silent guardian of Bahrain’s storied past, shedding light on the once-thriving pearling industry.
Nestled close to the historic market buildings on Muharraq Island, the Pearling Path stretches for 2.2 miles, meandering past significant architectural structures, three oyster beds, and a seashore site. It paints a vivid picture of a time when pearling dominated the region’s economic landscape. The Pearling Site Museum, located at the trail’s midpoint, stands as a testament to this rich history, intertwining the past and the present.
The design is more than just a visual treat. It is deeply functional, particularly with its emphasis on the climate-responsive design. Several columns extend upwards, morphing into wind towers that channel cool air into the area below. These wind catchers, of varying heights, not only facilitate a comfortable ambiance but also double up as seating areas.
The choice of materials and colors further adds depth to Olgiati’s design. The use of colored, in-situ concrete, ranging from shades of pink, red, to grey, bears imprints of the formwork used during its construction. This lends the structure a raw, earthy feel, making it resonate with the historical essence of the place. The building’s every element, from its vast canopy to the intricate ventilation hatches within the museum, reflects a cohesive design language, marked by simplicity and elegance.
In essence, the Pearling Site Museum and Entrance by Valerio Olgiati is more than just a building; it’s a harmonious blend of history, functionality, and art. It serves as a timeless reminder of Muharraq’s rich past while offering a serene space for its people.
Pearling Site Museum Plans
Pearling Site Museum Image Gallery
About Valerio Olgiati
Valerio Olgiati is a renowned Swiss architect known for his minimalist and conceptual approach to design. Rooted in a deep appreciation for architectural history and theory, Olgiati’s works often embody a refined simplicity, harmoniously blending context, materiality, and spatial experience. His meticulous attention to detail, combined with a profound understanding of space and form, has positioned him as one of the leading figures in contemporary architecture.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Architect: Valerio Olgiati
- Collaborators: Sofia Albrigo (Project Manager), Anthony Bonnici
- Local architect: Emaar Engineering
- General contractor: Almoayyed Contracting Group