Appearing to float on the waters of the lagoon, Bahrain National Theatre and its emblematic climatic roof, together with the neighboring National Museum, create a new cultural archipelago in the heart of the kingdom.
Project name: Bahrain National Theatre
Studio name: Architecturestudio
Client: Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Labour, Kingdom of Bahrain
Consultants: Setec, XU, 8’18’’, Atkins
Area: 12,000 m²
Location: Manama, Bahrain
Photography Credits: Nicolas Buisson
Award: USITT Architecture Honor Award 2015
The National Theatre embodies the artistic and cultural dynamism of the Kingdom of Bahrain on a regional and global scale. In Arabic, Bahrain means “two seas”, a maritime reference reflecting the insular character of this Persian Gulf archipelago, whose extreme flatness inspired the creation of the project. Alongside the National Museum, with which it shares a number of magnificent public spaces, the Theater represents an emblematic cultural center.
The building seeks to enhance the kingdom’s cultural prestige and strengthen its ties with the countries of the Gulf and the world. A cultural showcase in the heart of downtown Manama, the project was designed to include a 1001-seat theater, a 150-seat modular theater and exhibition areas.
The building is structured around the Grand Foyer from which, branching off, one can access the foyers, the modular hall, the “majlis” (officials’ lounge), the café and the premises reserved for artists and technical and administrative staff. The public access is sheltered by a large shady forecourt, facing the lagoon and the Manama coastline. Inside, the organically shaped room, entirely clad in elm wood for its superior acoustic qualities, recalls the inverted hull of “sambuks”, ancestral sailing ships formerly used for pearl fishing, still a world-renowned local resource for the kingdom. Its architecture follows the construction process of musical instruments designed to achieve the perfect resonance.
Suspended between land and sea, the theater emerges from the lagoon, within a unique, almost exclusive relationship with the clear waters of Manama and the nearby National Museum. The indoor activities are visible through vast glass walls revealing the interior volume of the stainless steel hull of the main hall. The iconic architecture of the theater is shaped by the large awning that covers the entire project as well as the forecourt. This open-work aluminum fabric plays a major role in controlling the intense light and searing temperatures of the region. Inspired by the country’s traditional wickerwork roofs, the sunshade extends the outdoor walkway and opens out fully to the water. In the night of Manama, shimmering between sky and sea, the theater rises like a dreamlike appearance of sparkling lights and reflections.
Architecturestudio is an international architecture, urban planning and interior design practice founded in 1973, with offices in Paris, Shanghai and Zug. It brings together, around 13 partners, a multidisciplinary team of 150 people, of 25 different nationalities. Its commitment to promote architecture is reflected in a collective work that has won numerous distinctions. Architecturestudio is founded on shared knowledge and dialogue to increase the creative potential of a collective design. This approach promotes a plural understanding of the world, which achievements for more than 40 years on 5 continents allow it to respond to the major challenges of the 21st century.
Architecturestudio relies on a wide expertise of projects carried out to further its conceptual approach, responding to specific challenges for each case study. The practice questions each of these subjects in the light of the major contemporary questions, which AS constantly feeds through its achievements, studies, R&D, prospection on innovation, conferences and events. Among its major projects, the European Parliament, the Arab World Institute, the restructuring of the Jussieu Campus, the Grand Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio, the Bahrain National Theater and the Jinan Cultural Center are references.
Eager to pass on knowledge and know-how, Architecturestudio invests in cultural promotion and education. The CA’ASI in Venice, is a place of exhibitions and debates where Architecturestudio regularly organizes competitions to reveal young architects from all over the world. The Mercredi d’AS, in Paris, are monthly meetings, open to all, where an external speaker discusses his practice.
In 2020, Architecturestudio started a new format dedicated to dialogue and reflection. The Matinées d’AS regularly questions a topic that resonates with the office’s current production.