Forte Al Fateh

PAD Plan Architecture & Design   Bahrein 

An essential key to understanding this project is the use of stone for building within an established historical setting: the choice of sandstone, created by layers of sand compressed and solidified over thousands of years, for use in an urban landscape rising from the Middle Eastern desert, is particularly significant. The colours of the existing and pre-existing setting represent an additional element of continuity, in terms of the relationship between the tones of the stone chosen for the work and those of the traditional mud and stone walling, plastered using a mix of the same materials. The use of natural materials, specially treated to reduce the perceived difference between them, further enhances the tone-on-tone effect. Other dialogues and relations are intentionally drawn by the project to create a dynamic play of contrast. Inside the precise, crystal setting of the permanent exhibition centre in Forte Al Fateh, the royal residence dating back to between the 17th and 18th centuries, the curved stone creates a clearly defined series of spaces carved out along the obligatory indoor pathway. The stone's use as an ultra-modern technical covering, rather than a thick stone wall, shows through at the summit, where a series of slim rectangular elements are laid out in a chequer pattern. Some of these are precisely carved using a water-jet technique to replicate traditional geometric patterns. The result is a metaphor of typical archaic architecture and the route that leads us to discover examples of it in nature, acting as ancient witnesses to past civilisations, with stone decorations carved out of the rock. The even more delicate layer of glass creates a double link between the fort and the new installation: on one hand, its transparency closing the physical and conceptual gap between history and innovation, and on the other the reflective capacities of glass, multiplying the architecture of the fort in a play of mirrors.