parallellab | Al Sajada
“Al Sajada” is a project that aims to re-qualify the notion of public space in the context of Bahrain. Bahraini society is undergoing rapid changes but the frenetic development of the urban skyline doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual needs of the people. Being interiorized and privatized the public spaces are not stimulating communication between the people and provoke a modification of behavior that have the effect of increasing the social division.”Al Sajada” makes reference to the traditional Islamic gathering space: The mosque. No matter the size of the building, the proportion of the praying hall always contains the fundamental measurement that relates to the human body and makes the majesty never oppressing. Another characteristic is that the spatial organization allows freedom of appropriation. Being opened days and nights mosques are shelter for people who come to pray, read, chat or taking a nap away from the heat. They are at the same time meeting place and extension of the domestic spaces.
As evidence, even if the new reclaimed lands are for the moment only partially occupied by new buildings there is no doubts that the development’s agendas are clearly aiming to density of the coastline. It is therefore important to anticipate the future enclosure of the old city from the new areas and to state the necessity of having open air public space that is able to act as buffer zone. Moreover the size, the representative aspect and strategic location of this contained empty space gives the opportunity to establish a public square not only at the scale of the city of Manama but the entire Kingdom of Bahrain.
In such a fragmented context the scale of the new development no longer refers to the Bahrain’s inhabitants. Being at the fringe of the fine and dense urban fabric of the Old City, the situation of the proposed public square offers the opportunity to reconnect the “macro-scale” to the “micro-scale”. The scale factor is therefore the starting point of the project. How to keep the generosity and representativeness of an area of the size of 6 football fields but turn it at the same time into a public space that encourages appropriation and that procures the feeling of intimacy and openness? Again the project makes reference to another type of traditional space definition : The carpet.
A carpet in the middle of the desert or on a marble ground is the sparest element that transform inhospitable environment into a familiar setting. In the same way “Al Sajada” intends to speak to the sensitive part of Bahrain’s inhabitants and bring softness in the fragmented context. As if the Old City of Manama was an enormous carpet, a piece of an oriental carpet is conceptually placed on the square’s location. Hypothetically seen from far above this piece of carpet relates to a much bigger scale than the macro-scale of the new urban development and is a “clin d’oeil” to the reversed idea of monumentality.
Related to the micro-scale, one simple element, a thin and light stem (10cm wide, 10meters long) will be planted all over the square following the carpets’ pattern. Arranged in line, circle or arabesque the combination of stems will create shaded archways, clusters, forest, etc. All spatial situations that relates to the human body which accommodate and encourage individual or group spatial appropriation or accompany the flux. Fixed into the ground, the angle of the support pieces is the simple variation that will define the different stems’ bend. Along the day the shadows provided by the stems will move on the square and induce different type of activities. Even during the hottest period the densest stem’s zones will be the shelter for open outside activities. Movements of the sea breeze that will gently sway the long stems like soft waves will revive the memory of the sea that once was there. By re-introducing the notion of discovery, play, gathering, sitting in an open air public space “Al Sajada” intends to reconnect every human body to the specific condition and location of Bahrain, an island on the sea in a climate that varies from 45 to 14 degrees. Being a 100% open air space the Bab Al Bahrain square will demonstrate that there are alternatives to air-conditioned shopping malls and reconnect the people with the seasonal changes along the year.
Location: Bahrain Architect: parallellab Project name: Al Sajada