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14 March 2020 Bahrain’s Pearling Path Visitor Center Highlighted by Italian Architecture Magazine “ Domus”
Bahrain’s Pearling Path Visitor Center Highlighted by Italian Architecture Magazine “ Domus”


Since the construction of the Pearling Path Visitors Centre in Muharraq, after its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 and as a part of the declaration of Muharraq as the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2018, the site, designed by the acclaimed architect Valerio Olgiati, continues to attract worldwide attention from architectural magazines, with the most recent guest editor of Domus including an article on the Pearling Path Visitors Centre during the magazines first quarterly publication this year.

The magazine’s opening report article reads as “In the heart of Bahrain’s former capital, a major site with a unique historic heritage has been revitalised in honour of the city’s defunct pearling industry. The key project is Valerio Olgiati’s Pearling Site Visitor Centre”. The magazine shed lights on the beautiful design of the building through pictures and photos of its facilities and a historical background to the Pearling Path Visitors Centre in Muharraq.

 Revisiting the pearling industry legacy, the article about Valerio Olgiati’s Visitor Centre demonstrates that the necessary work of preserving the historic structures along the Pearling Path is compatible with a productive rethinking of architecture. The economy and the social reality of pearl fishing belong to the past, and Bahrain Culture Authority has done a tremendous job in restoring the historical houses around the center, setting open spaces and private parking lots. 

 The article explains how Valerio Olgiati’s visitor centre in Bahrain honours the disappearing pearling industry; “When you access the building by the front entrance set in the high surrounding wall, it appears as a broad, long surface covered by an irregularly shaped roof. It is actually a flat roof supported by pillars, pierced by slender towers and interspersed with pentagonal apertures. This is clearly a modern interpretation of the ancient wind towers erected in many Eastern countries to ventilate and cool interiors in a natural way. The roof rises some ten metres above grade. Pentagonal apertures are inlaid across its surface. However, this roof does not cover a building, and even the wind towers do not lead inside a building. The pentagonal openings in the roof surface perform no other function than allowing the sun’s rays to reach the paving unobstructed, so creating a fascinating pattern of constantly chequered light and shade. All around, the surface area, extraordinarily spacious, is surrounded by tall concrete walls. Closer to the narrow anterior side stands a block-shaped building, almost windowless. Its form is that of a building with a pitched roof, but actually built as a monolith. Rather surprisingly, it is positioned laterally and extends the ridgeline of the roof with its sharp edges into the adjacent space. Deep inside the site, the wind towers alternate with thinner pillars arranged in straight rows on the flat surface paved with concrete. Suddenly ruins or parts of ruined buildings appear long walls of light local stone, typical of the oyster beds. In the further extension of the land, there are added rows of masonry pillars, partly braced against each other with wooden roundels that most likely had the function of supporting canopies or tents – the scaffolding of a souk, a traditional market. In the depths of the site, some areas have been isolated and preserved, such as excavated foundations and the remains of the walls of previous buildings. These carefully preserved ruins are not “ancient”. They are market buildings dating from the 1930s, which in the course of Bahrain’s economic transformation fell into disrepair. The message is obvious to everyone. Today’s Muharraq stands on the remains of the previous urban settlement and the physical excavation in depth simultaneously denotes an awareness of the stratifications of the past, awareness of the historical heritage.

 Domus magazine article clearly reflects the rich history of Muharraq and the pearling route, more specifically the Pearling Path Visitor Centre at the heart of the capital of Bahrain, Muharraq. The center has attraction the attention of architects and exceptionally contributes to the promotion of the Kingdom of Bahrain, its heritage and universal historical sites, the importance of international expertise famous icons to show the whole world the Bahraini local cultural and historical treasures.


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