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RAK Architecture Prize

The RAK Art Foundation is proud to announce the winners of its inaugural Architecture Prize. The jury, consisting of Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa, Yousif Daoud Al Sayegh, Dalia Al Mardi, Yasmin Sharabi and Ali Ismail Karimi, met last week to review the twenty entries to the competition. For the design of a Performing Arts Center in Adhari, the jury selected the following winners: Fatima Nickahdar in first place, Latifa and Al Anood Al Khayyat in second place, Sara Salman in third place, and Adnan Hasania and Mohammed Al Zeera as the two honorable mentions.

The jury commended the first place winner, Fatima Nickahdar, on the bold form of the proposal with its sloping massing and curvilinear circulation and gardens. The jury appreciated the design of the Center which allowed for outdoor performances to occur on the exterior, combining both stage and landscape onto a single roof plane. For second place, the jury appreciated the Khayyats’ proposal which featured a series of rectangular rooms in plan, connected by an interstitial series of gardens and exhibition/multi-use spaces, and the massing which separated the site into three distinct gardens. The third place proposal was chosen for its multi-form proscenium, and its vision of various performance spaces accommodated within a single building. The honorable mention projects were also acknowledged for their technical achievement, citing Hansia’s bold decision to place the theatre and outdoor spaces within a large water feature; and Al Zeera’s elegant choice of materials and finishes for the center.

The jury would like to thank all participants for their thoughtful proposals, and the RAK foundation invites members of the community to attend the award ceremony and participant exhibition in September. Date to be announced soon.


First: Fatima Nickahdar
Second: Latifa & Alanood Al Khayat
Third: Sara Salman

Honourable Mention:

Adnan Hansia
Mohammed Al Zeera


The RAK Art Foundation invited aspiring Bahraini architects to submit a schematic design for a proposed ‘Centre for Performing Arts’ to be located in Adhari, Bahrain. Design proposals were requested to comprise of:

  • A Performance Hall, designed for music and theatre performance
  • A Multifunctional Exhibition Space, to be utilized for talks and temporary exhibitions
  • Admin offices, storage, and a general catering area

Candidates were expected to take into consideration the history of the location (Adhari) and the surrounding environment. Applications were judged on innovation, sustainability, environmental responsibility, functional design and communal space.

In fitting with RAK Art Foundation’s mission to encourage and support creative innovation in Bahrain, the RAK Architecture Prize aims to provide a platform for promising architects to demonstrate their skill, providing an opportunity to develop a concept that would become an integral part of the shared landscape and contribute to the visual culture of their native country.

Fatima Nickahdar

Bahrain was famous for the presence of a large number of natural springs, which was a major reason for the prosperity of its civilization. These springs were attracting visitors to this region and fulfilling their various needs, Adhari was known to have one of the largest natural water spring in Bahrain, and this spring was used to irrigate crops and meet the daily needs of individuals, whether these needs were recreational, functional and cultural.

The irrigation system that was relying on the natural springs were formulating ecosystems that supported the diversity of different organisms, various creatures roamed in the waters of Adhari, including fish such as Lutjanus (النيسر) and the Arabian toothcarp (الحرسون), sweet water turtles (الغيلمة) and water beetles (جوجلان الماي), All were habitating Adhari and were the sources of inspiration for our folklore spring water games.

The proposal stands as a landmark embedded within the strata of the earthen landscape, inspired by the history of the city’s folk culture and by the performative aspects of water-man relationships within the site, as these relationships were accomplished due to the existence of underground spring water which occupied an ecological, economical, and social positions. Water was deeply associated with the norms and cultures that remained immortal in our folklore, allowing itself to generate spaces of community and leisure.

As an ore monolith body under the sky of Adhari, the volume of the performing space is situated on a sloping valley, designed to act as a path of sequential voids and straits that orchestrate the pedestrian stream towards the compelling volume of the performance hall where the rest of the project’s programme are fused within the language of the landscape, emphasizing the main volume of the Centre.
On the outside, the frontal area of open land acts as an ecological/communal landscape, serving a ground for outdoor public events, outdoor film projections, gathering spaces, and as a habitat for various organisms by introducing the cultivation of native plants. The subtle sloping area of the landscape is increasing the ecological and the hydrological function of the land where rainwater can be driven by gravitational means as a landscape feature as well as collecting and filtering grey water to be used for irrigation.

The circulation route is formed at the edge of the site as a descending mark on the land, where the sides of this route gradually rise to form a meandering narrow corridor that sweeps into wider open spaces to define the main entrance points.

Latifa Alkhayat & Alanood Alkhayat

The proposal for the Athari Centre for Performance Arts is designed as a homage to the agricultural history of the context. Carrying great cultural significance, Ain Athari was once a crucial social incubator, drawing Bahrain’s inhabitants to come together and gather in and around the water. This design proposal serves this past by historicising its implicit remains on the site. The architecture appears monolithic from the main approach, however, once entered, shafts of light pierce the space where the existing notorious date palm trees continue to grow.

By retaining the palm trees that sit along the agricultural grid lines that once divided the land, an act of monumentalising takes place. When framing each of the trees with small courtyards, an obligation is made to care for them and their legacy. The space around these palm courtyards is free form and flexible, to be used for exhibitions and events.

Meanwhile, the main programmatic functions anchor the flexible central hall. The exterior is constantly brought into the large interior volume to allow for visual indulgence and natural ventilation to be enjoyed during the cooler months.

Looking ahead to the future of the site, the theatre is placed off grid, as it untethers from the past agricultural program. This symbolises a change and repurposing of the land. What continues, nonetheless, is the ceremonial gathering of people. With each performance, as the audience enters, a gush of water is unleashed, forming a water curtain that conceals the stage and surrounds it with a pool. Once the audience is fully seated, the pool is filled and the water curtain drops to reveal the performance.

This water is then circulated back into the three gardens that surround the building and carry the language of the qanat water distribution system, which is also inherited from the past agricultural program.

Sara Salman

This concept focusses on how the building functions as well as the overall spatial experience.

The performance hall is designed to offer maximum flexibility. Its ‘black box’ theatre characteristics allows for a multifunctional space to suit the type of performance taking stage. This will ensure an immersive experience. The performance area can transfer from proscenium, to thrust, to an arena and to a flat stage that can be extended to the multifunctional exhibition hall, resulting in an in a transecting space that hosts diverse activity.

In the multifunctional exhibition hall, acoustic glass windows that soundproof the noise coming from outside have been incorporated to enable the experience. A blackout shade within the glass can be activated to be inside the space to create complete enclosure.

As for the unique setting of the site, the design of the centre and the material used will pay respects to the authenticity of the place, thereby generating a full sensorial experience and feelings of nostalgia for the ‘land of a million palm trees’ and freshwater springs. The building will be elevated carefully aligned around the palm trees, creating a pathway, all meant to preserve the sites natural setting and allowing room for more planting.

When it comes to the material selection, rammed earth is been chosen for the administrative building while the main performance centre will be covered with double skin façade from 3d printed brick units. Both materials act as an insulation barrier to help stabilize the internal temperatures of buildings, keeping them cool during the day. They are also very durable, locally sourced and require low maintenance. In contrast with the earthy tones, sheets of gold anodized aluminium have been fused in the performance centre building.

The material and colour adds to the aesthetic. It is also durable and corrosion-resistant, which comes with low maintenance costs as it does not chip or peel. A light shade of beige pigmentated GRC concrete will be used for the pathway to help it blend in with the site and to minimize heat.

Adding to the consideration of building sustainability, photovoltaic cell panels are installed for the conversion of thermal energy into electricity. And grey water recycling treatment is used for irrigation purposes.


H.E. Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa

Yousef Daoud Alsayegh

Originally from Mosul, Iraq, Yousif Daoud Al Sayegh received his BA in Architecture from the University of Baghdad in 1965. Following his collaboration with other architects on various projects including the Mosul Museum, he formed Makiya Associates with partner Mohammed Makiya. They developed a ‘Regional Design Methodology’, in respect of place, tradition and culture. Based Baghdad, the office served all provinces in Iraq, eventually extending to Bahrain, Oman and other Gulf countries. In 1976, he received his MA in Architecture and City Planning (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA) and in 1977, established YDA & Associates, Bahrain in 1977.

Yasmin Sharabi

Yasmin Sharabi (USA/ Palestine/ Bahrain) received her BA in Studio Art/ Art History from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada in 2004 and completed her MA Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London in 2006. She is an art curator and consultant, currently heading the RAK Art Foundation in Riffa, Bahrain. Yasmin oversees the private collection of HE Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, coordinating and curating projects related to his collection as well as his own artwork. She has worked on various events and exhibitions in Bahrain and abroad, with emerging and established artists.

Dalia Elmardi

Bahraini architect and graduate of Edinburgh University (MA(hons) Architectural
Design), Dalia Elmardi, set up her architectural practice in 2011/2012. Her portfolio covers a wide variety of works ranging from hospitality, residential, commercial and urban planning projects to her own personal exploration of design practice via creative collaborations and competition works.

Ali Karimi