Arabic English

One of the few existing public spaces in Bahrain, the Bab al Bahrain square has been progressively turned into a series of surface parking lots. Still, due to its historical importance and its centrality within the Island, it holds the potential to become a lively urban public square; located at the entrance of the Manama Suq it has the advantage of belonging to a tight urban structure which still benefits from a natural pedestrian network.

Once located a stone’s throw away from the sea, it is today physically separated from the sea due to the land reclamation projects which have taken place since the 1950s.

The competition therefore poses the double challenge of reviving the memory of the sea on the site and proposing a viable urban square taking into consideration the new changes in lifestyles and behaviorism in the Arab World.

Considering the recent political events that have taken place across the region, the competition seeks to question what a contemporary public space in the Arab World should look like.

 How will it be used?
Who will use it?
How will it integrate within the rest of the urban fabric of the City?
What will it represent?

Participants will need to take into account the following aspects in their proposal:

Sense of place
The proposals for the Bab Al Bahrain square should seek to reinstate a strong sense of place and redefine the square as a representative space within Bahrain. 

Connection to the seafront
The connection to the waterfront should be re-established and reintegrated within the proposal for the square.  Although, the water is today physically absent from the site, the historical presence of the sea at the entrance of the Bab Al Bahrain should be reintegrated into the square either in a physical or conceptual manner.

Design for New Activities
Contestants should think freely about new activities and uses: consider activities for different generations, activities that allow spectator participation. Locate louder activities so they will not disturb areas for reading and solitude. Light commercial activities such as food vendors are encouraged.

Soft Landscaping
Currently. the site lacks a large amount of soft landscaping elements; there are very few trees or green areas as the site is mostly covered with hard landscaping surfaces. Considering the fact that the Bab Al Bahrain is located not far from the seafront, it benefits from soft coastal winds which can become quite hot in the afternoon. The presence of trees and other green features which help in reducing the temperature and provide much needed shade will be an important addition to the site.

Neighborhood Context
Recognition of the adjacent neighborhoods and nearby urban features- such as the Diplomatic Area and the nearby Neighborhoods of Fareej Al Fadhel Manama Suq are strongly encouraged. Creating east-west spatial and design relationships to weave the square into the nearby urban fabric is also appreciated.

Bab Al Bahrain Building
Having undergone an extensive restoration in the 80s, which significantly transformed the building, the Bab Al Bahrain is currently undergoing another transformation which will seek to bring it back to its former state along with a few modifications. The road heading towards the Suq, which passes under the archways of the Bab Al Bahrain, will be once again be open to traffic, enhancing the position of the building as a gateway to the City. It will also be supplemented by two smaller archways for pedestrians.

The works on the building are scheduled to start by the beginning of 2012 and will take approximately 6-8 months.

Manama Central Post Office
The Manama Central Post Office is positioned across the roundabout from the Bab Al Bahrain building and creates somewhat of an enclosure towards the roundabout. There are plans to move the building into new premises and free the site where it is currently located. It is envisaged that the new central post office building be located within the Bab Al Bahrain square perimeter. Its relocation should be considered within the new proposal for the Square.

Additional Cultural Infrastructure
Along with the relocation of the Central Post Office building, several other cultural buildings are proposed to be located within the Bab Al Bahrain square such as the National Archives and the Children's Museum. Their new location, as well as the introduction of other programs which are thought to be relevant and will add to the liveliness of the site are welcome and should be integrated within the new proposals for the square.

Road traffic
The current network of roads around the square can be redesigned in order to facilitate traffic and minimize the presence of cars within the square while still allowing for cars to access the Suq through the Bab Al Bahrain building into the Al Khalifa Avenue and therefore irrigating the commercial strip which runs along the historic part of the Suq.

The current surface parking areas should be reconsidered and can be, redesigned, reconfigured or relocated within the site, while maintaining the same amount of parking spaces. Proposals which suggest alternatives and introduce new means of transportation within the centre of Manama are welcome.


Kingdom of Bahrain Ministry of Culture Manama Capital Of Arab Culture 2012