2010-2011   BCH   | Bahrain Convention Hall. Kingdom of Bahrain

Direct commission.

Year 2010-2011
Client Royal Court of Bahrain
Location Manama, Bahrain
Program Convention Hall + Hotel + Restaurant
Surface +70.000 m2
Cost + 200M Bd. (400M€)
 Structure Robert Brufau, Barcelona
 Engineering BDSP, London+ RC Barcelona
 Acoustics Higini Arau, Barcelona
 Exterior-Light Yann Kersalé, Paris
 Market Study Bigel, Barcelona
 Hotel Oohtel, Palma de Mallorca
 Artist Mika Utzon, Sydney (Australia)
 Models Basvan, Barcelona



The BCH project was born thanks to a direct invitation from the ‘Royal Court of Bahrain’, who asked us to design a building for multi-religious weddings. The initial program was enhanced to meet the needs of a convention centre, so it improved the economic performance of the complex. The project is located on a privileged site. A triangular plot, where all facades of can be observed from a distance, without any visual obstacles.

Who lives in Bahrain? What moves the economy of the country? what do they eat? how do they pray? How do they socialize? How do they marry? how have they protected themselves from ‘sand -storms’? …as a petrol related economy, do they have any environmental attitudes? … We invested some weeks to gather information from an area we knew very little about.



Bahrain, before linking to fossil fuels grew based on two activities both linked to the sea. Fishermen deposited huge pots on the seabed as they went on their way to the Iranian coast while searching for pearls, and on the way back to their country they collected the weekly amount of fish. These pots today have a more anecdotal use, some have been converted into small cabins, using the framework to support overlapping of different fabrics that protect it from heat and whipping sand.

We found it very suggestive, much more than a vulgar reproduction of the north -American curtain wall that has been pursued by the ‘neo-rich’ in the Middle East. Buildings always exposed to the sun and constantly under cleaning not knowing how to treat sand blizzards.

We proposed a metallic structure which shape was a nod of the maps of fishermen and pearl divers. Within the structure several materials are sandwiched with different textures and colours but with complementary meanings.

The Middle East is aware that oil and its derivatives are shrinking every year. They are highly polluting, and try, at least as a politically correct attitude, to contribute to the study (and business) of clean technologies that produce clean energy.

We decided to create a building that concentrated the required program in a easy shaped box created by other smaller volumes and empty spaces. And a skin protecting it from the extreme weather conditions, and that it would also assists in energy issues. Trying to communicate a respectable eco-attitude.

The Site

We find ourselves in well connected site, between the old city and the diplomatic area near the airport. An area reclaimed from the sea with a large tunnel with all urban systems already installed.

As building regulations we used what we have in Barcelona. Always much more restrictive than Bahrain’s.






A large metal structure that combines the support element of the skin and other traces that emulate the road ‘maps’ that carried Bahrainis during their times of Pearl Fishers. The main structure, is completed with 4 parallel concepts from the environmental point of view. While offering; colour combinations, textures and urban readings.

 ‘Gold’ membranes: In our first visits we observed the interest by the Bahraini people in gold related items, either in their ornaments when dressing, or in their home, where sofas, ceilings, railings, doors…. All share a golden look as a symptom of a high social level. We believe that incorporating gold, as one of the colours of the facade would be appreciated as well as we could express a certain critical social interpretation. We got to work with a company that makes the ambulances’ thermal blankets used in cases of accident. Exo and endothermic, gold plated on one side and silver on the reverse side. The reason is purely thermal. A face protects from heat while the other extracts the cold.


ETFE: A part of the cold energy generated inside the building, we wanted to use it along the facades in a way to brake the thermal shock between an interior at 21ºC any an exterior at 45+ºC. Our partners at BDSP were who developed the ‘dome ‘ project for the ‘Eden Project’ in Cornwall. And we found a system that the ETFE could meet our thermal requirement. Without diminishing the visual capabilities of ETFE.

Metallic fabrics: To filter sunbeams and cause some intended shadows inside. A material that would use the sandstorms as a formal transformation of the building, changing its colour and texture. Creating a fixed layer of sand on top of the fabric. Trying not to emulate the glass skins you can see all around the Middle East. In a way to also protect the thermal aspect of the building as the ancient architectures would do. Leaving it to cooler months where the sand was blown off in order to let the sun reach again, and heat the existing rear façade.

Energy Membranes: Emulating local women dressed with a black ‘Abaya’, which protects them from wind and the sun. We decided to use a black membrane that via a double layer where we will hide the energy collection technology. Energy that will be transformed into hot water or heating during the cooler months

Photovoltaic Surfaces: Large surfaces scavenging energy from the sun.


Behind the skin, there are two pedestrian ‘avenues’, one outside the interior volumes and one inside. Separated by a longitudinal part of the building that offers the accesses and distributes and welcomes visitors to the different areas.

The area dedicated to weddings and/or conventions, is divided into six sub-areas, five inside and an extra one outside.

Completing the building on the opposite side of public access, we have projected a building that serves the BCH, which feeds from level-1 to the roof where the hotel and the restaurant are located.

The interior fits any customer request. The functional program is variable while the building fits acoustic requirements and/or visual requirements. To use options offer ranging from weddings to music, sports, political shows…

The whole building is elevated in order to solve two problems; the vision of hundreds of vehicles and the thermal protection of those vehicles.