Bahrain’s Pearling Heritage

Marwan Basmaji

Basmaji and Bielinska Architects:

The 3.5 km Pearling Pathway in Bahrain represents the culmination of around 7000 years of pearling history in the Arabian Gulf: 3 oyster beds, a seashore and 16 historical structures illustrate 20 chapters of the pearling narrative.

In order to promote and protect this site, the Ministry of Culture (BACA) decided to develop information centers along the pathway. Our studio was commissioned to design the architecture of the first, and the so-called Permanent Exhibit of the second. The requirement was to embody the heritage and story of pearling within the design process.

Cities in the Gulf are expanding toward the sea (sea reclamation), sometimes ignoring the rich historical aspect of the seashore and its old typology of, for example, houses and souks. This architectural intervention is a counter example, bringing back the sea as a central part of the architectural composition.

My presentation “Representing Bahrain’s Pearl Heritage: Architectural Space and Exhibition Design as Storytellers” will inform you about these and other wishes and requirements, including:

– Preservation: how to protect and project existing ruins to visitors?
– Proposing a new program: how to integrate new architecture but not dominate existing elements?
– Revitaliation: how to reuse existing structures as part of new interventions?
– Restoration: how to exhibit a large part of the ruins as narrative of the past?
– Resurrection: how to reinvent the vanished past by reconstructing lost elements?

Photo: © Herb Stovel, whc.unesco.org/en/documents/115106