_Bu Maher Visitor Centre, Muharraq_

13-12-Kavi Kittani-installation of model showing the renovation projects along the pearling heritage trail

Bu Maher Visitor Centre Interior (Kavi Kittani)

For this weeks post I have invited Kavi Kittani to contribute. As well as being a great friend, Kavi has been living in Bahrain for the past ten years. She studied Interior Design and Architecture at The University of North London and The Bartlett School of Architecture, respectively. Here is what she has to say about the newly completed Bu Maher Visitor Centre:

With the sea breeze and salty air, the approach by boat to the Bu Maher Visitor Centre signals a start of a journey in our imagination before it has actually begun. Bahrain is in the process of re-visiting part of its past by tracing a journey of its pearl diving culture through the streets of Muharraq. This endeavor and all it encompasses is housed in the newly built Visitors Centre, which for now, can only be accessed by sea. As the structure comes into view and the shoreline in focus, this is the same strip of sandy beach that for centuries was the point from which pearl divers bade farewell to their families as they set off by dhow (a sailing vessel with one or two masts, used mainly in the Arabian region) for weeks at a time to the oyster beds of the Arabian Gulf.

13-2-Kavi Kittani-arriving on the jetty

Bu Maher Visitor Centre from the Jetty (Kavi Kittani)

The ramp leading to the entrance of the Visitor’s centre gently pulls up, away from the beach and we are led to a contemporary structure which has been specially commissioned.

13-3-Kavi Kittani-ramp sloping up from the sandy beach to the entrance

Ramp leading to entrance (M.Boria)

13-4-Marco Boria-entrance

Entrance (M.Boria)

13-7-Marco Boria-view from entrance

View of the original beach from which pearl divers left and arrived back from their journeys (M.Boria)

The glass façade allows a view directly facing the Bu Maher fort (19th century) with the skyline of Manama’s high rises behind.

13-6-Marco Boria-glass wall giving a view out to sea and the manama skyline

Glass Façade facing the Fort and Manama (M.Boria)

13-5-Marco Boria-entrance with portuguese fort in the background

Mid 19th Century Fort built for its strategic position on the coastline (M.Boria)

13-2-Kavi Kittani-skyline of Manama seen from the bu maher visitor centre

Manama Skyline (K. Kittani)

The commission of this building is a solid statement of an acceptance of the present and the acknowledgment of the importance of being of our time while housing the memories of the past and the placement of utmost importance on the history and value of one’s culture, not to be put aside in the name of modernity. The stone used is split faced travertine and is reminiscent of coral in its texture, its adds an organic softness to the building. The strong light of the Gulf is controlled by the use of the suspended structure that also works as a backdrop for the model tracing the walk.

13-9-Marco Boria-interior

Interior exhibition space (M.Boria)

13-10-Kavi Kittani-wall of split face Travertine stone from Tuscany.

Split faced Travertine (K. Kittani)

13-11-Kavi Kittani-close up of travertine stone

Close up of Travertine Stone (K. Kittani)

This ambitious and romantic project of what must have been a difficult occupation, is the heritage pearling trail of Bahrain and it will wind its way through 3.5km of Muharraq’s narrow streets, visiting 17 renovated houses along the way, each with a connection to the pearling culture that brought wealth to the island prior to the 1930’s.

13-13-Kavi Kittani-models of neighbourhoods and the houses to be renovated highlighted

Installation Model showing all 17 structures to be renovated (K. Kittani)

13-14-Kavi Kittani-Badr Ghulum House

Badr Ghulum House –pearl diver’s medicine house (K. Kittani)

13-15-Kavi Kittani-hanging model showing the route of the heritage trail through Muharraq

Hung Installation model showing the trail itself (K. Kittani)

13-16-Kavi Kittani-World Heritage

UNESCO recognition of the project as a World Heritage Site (K. Kittani)

In addition to these traditional vernacular houses being renovated in plaster and timber using traditional making techniques, there are 3 remaining off shore pearling beds which are part of this project. This combined with the original shoreline and fort, produces a strong, significant entity which offers an opportunity to re-enter a world no longer of our time.

Project: Bu Maher Visitor’s Centre and Pearling Heritage Trail
Commissioned by the Minister of Culture, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, for the Ministry of Culture of Bahrain
Architect: Davide Chiaverini
plan architecture design
UNESCO: Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy
Photography: Marco Boria, Kavi Kittani
Model: Marwan Basmaji Basmaji and Bielinska Architects