Architecture, Bahrain, Cultural architecture, Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Pearl diving

Belgian architects refurbish two houses into cultural venues in Bahrain

Belgian Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen has designed a pair of cultural centres for Bahrain, featuring mesh curtains that can be lifted to offer views of the performances taking place inside.

The project includes the renovation of two houses, known as ‘Dar’s’ on the harbour city of Muharraq. One of the projects, Dar al Jinaa, has been completed inaugurated, while the second, Dar al Riffa, is currently under construction.

The town itself is located in the northeast of Bahrain and is one of the most important areas of pearl diving in the country, a heritage that the two buildings aim to preserve.


The existing structures are typical courtyard houses found in the Middle East, compromising of two-to-three storeys, with no existing windows looking out on street level.

Due to this, and to increase the floor area of the space to cater to its function of a music performance venue, the architects designed two contemporary, new build structures that are linked to the historic ‘dars’.

The new build structures are simple. Dar Al Jinaa’s structure features concrete columns with overhanging platforms, linked by stairs.

The facade is draped in a steel mesh that completely veils the building, allows passersby to peak inside when the performances are taking place, all connected by stairs.

“The entire building is covered by a seamless steel mesh, providing cover from the harsh desert sun, and transforming the buildings into enigmatic, ‘veiled’ objects, protruding from the dense Bahraini urban maze,” the architects said. 

“When the building is in use, the veil is lifted to allow passers-by a glimpse of the performances inside.”

A visual link is created between the old and new structures. From the courtyard, one can look up and see the new building, and in contrast, the courtyard is visible to those at the top floor.

The open space also features foldable glass doors which can be either opened up or kept shut. Perforated wooden panels in each glass element also creates an additional visual layer for privacy.

The main performances take place on the ground floor, while the first floor is used for musical education.

The top floor of Dar al Jinaa features an office and storage space, while the under-construction Dar al Riffa will include residence studios.

Related story: SOM’s Arcapita Mosque in Bahrain wins mosque architecture award