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Kingdom of Bahrain Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

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The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) held a press conference to announce the latest developments in the participation of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Expo 2020 Dubai. Present at the event was Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, President of BACA and the Commissioner General of the Bahrain Pavilion at the Expo, Tala Fakhro, Chief Project Officer at the Economic Development Board (EDB), Noura Al-Sayeh, Head of Engineering Projects at BACA, and fashion designer Hala Kaiksow.

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The self-built national pavilion for the Expo showcases the concept of ‘density’ and its role in providing opportunities. Bearing the slogan “Density Weaves Opportunities,” the pavilion showcases the features of Bahrain’s natural and urban structural fabric.

Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa commented, “Today we confirm our participation in Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE, one of the world’s most important events. Our participation in this global event is a great opportunity to affirm our cultural presence amongst the countries of the world, supported by the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain stewarded by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Designed to reflect the concept of density in the Kingdom of Bahrain and its rich cultural and historical heritage, Her Excellency noted that the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national pavilion aims to open up promising opportunities for sustainable development, underscoring the important role that country’s diverse urban fabric and natural, cultural and social characteristics have played in enhancing its profile at the regional and international level.

For her part, Tala Fakhro, Chief Project Officer at the EDB said, “We are looking forward to showcasing the Kingdom’s unique competitive advantages and business-friendly environment at this year’s EXPO 2020 event. As a leading regional and global event, we will have the opportunity to present the Kingdom’s achievements, from both an economic and cultural perspective to new audiences. Bahrain, well known for its openness and diversity, has much to offer investors and we are excited to present those opportunities across different activities hosted at Expo 2020 during the 6 months period.”

Expo 2020 Dubai, which carries the slogan “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” will be held from 1 October  2021 to 31 March 2022, and is the first and largest event of its kind to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. Expected to attract nearly 25 million visitors over the six months over its duration, 70% of whom will be international visitors, the event presents a perfect platform and environment for Bahrain to showcase itself.

Located in the Opportunity district – one of Expo Dubai’s three themed areas – Bahrain’s national pavilion explores the concept of density and its role in creating promising opportunities and future possibilities in an increasingly crowded world through an immersive experience designed by architect Christian Kerez in cooperation with WANDERS WERNER FALASI Consulting Architects in the UAE.

The pavilion is an open and slightly submerged space accessed by a ramp that forms the bridge from the exterior to the interior. The structure of this central space is conceived as a 24m high rectangular building with a central and open exhibition space of 30 meters by 30 meters held by 126 columns of only 11 cm in thickness.  In addition to functioning as a support mechanism to one another and the ceiling, the columns elegantly reference the principles of communication and density in exploring three-dimensional possibilities inspired by the traditional geometric plaster ornamentations of traditional Bahraini architecture. This central space includes the main exhibition space, gift shop, and café, all of which have been arranged in a free-flowing manner between the columns as a physical spatial representation of the pavilion’s density-centered theme.

Akin to walking through a dense forest, the 126 steel columns allow visitors to freely experience the exhibition and planned pavilion program, while the aluminum-made façade signifies one of the Kingdom’s main exports. The entire structure was designed to allow it to be completely dismantled and rebuilt at a permanent location back in Bahrain after the end of the Expo.

The pavilion’s main exhibition revolves around weaving as a metaphor for density. The space will display art installations that incorporate traditional crafts – weaving and embroidery using textiles and palm fronds – and sophisticated modern technologies – fiberglass and carbon fiber – as a way to illustrate the diversity and versatility of Bahrain’s traditional crafts and contemporary woven materials production, as well as the innovation and basic skills involved in the production process. Visitors will also be able to interact with technological innovations related to the manufacture of carbon fiber, fiberglass, and composite materials used in the automotive and construction industries.

Designers, craftsmen and apprentices will conduct a series of design-focused collaborative experimental technological processes in which materials are produced to create different art installations and products that highlight the production process rather than the end product. The resulting creations will be displayed in a revolving series of themed exhibitions, shows, and installations, each of which will last 6 weeks for the duration of the Expo. The themes that will be explored include the sea, crafts and technology, the urban fabric, density, crafts and fashion, and finally sustainable cities.

As part of its preparation for the Expo Dubai 2020, BACA launched a crafts training program in cooperation with the Al-Jasra Handicrafts Center, the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, and the Capital Mall for Bahraini handmade products (operated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development), the Awal Women Society, and the  Bani Jamra Textile Factory, to train and preserve a wide range of traditional crafts, provide a creative education, and offer an opportunity to develop skills. In all, 22 participants took part in the training program which was overseen by four artists and designers.

Award-winning Arabic calligraphy and typography designer Pascal Zoghbi and graphic designer Clara Sancho Perez to create the identity of the Bahrain Pavilion. Inspired by the theme “Density Weaves Opportunities,” the design creates a dynamic logo that seamlessly embodies the theme’s multi-functionality while retaining the pavilion’s unique character. The identity was created with a bespoke font – 29LT Zawi – that denotes flexibility, multi-direction, simplicity and strength, recalling the geometry of the dense columns that make up the pavilion.

The columns were also the inspiration behind Bahraini fashion designer Hala Kaiksow, who worked with the Bani Jamra Textile Factory to produce a unique contemporary line of garments that also incorporate traditional Bahraini craft techniques. A Bahraini artist and sculptor, Kaiksow’s work has garnered international fame, taking home the 2016 International Fashion Show Designer Award, and shortlisted for the 5th Art Jameel Prize exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her work has also been exhibited at the Grand Palais as part of a group exhibition in Paris in 2018.

Run by Bahraini chefs Bassam Al-Alawi and Lulwa Sowaileh, the pavilion café will offer patrons Bahraini dishes that reflect the richness and variety of local cuisine and ingredients and its different landscapes, from agricultural lands to fishing grounds and southern deserts.

Using the same approach that proved to be so successful at Expo 2015 Milan and previous BACA events, the pavilion will be staffed by selected volunteers who will be responsible for introducing visitors from all around the world to Bahrain and its tangible and intangible cultural heritage. This initiative, aims to involve Bahraini youth in this important event where they serve as ambassadors to the country and give them real-world practical experience. Ultimately, Bahrain’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, represented by BACA and in cooperation with the Economic Development Board as a business partner and representative, in cooperation with Gulf Air, NBB, MOICT, BCCI, Tamkeen, Mumtalakat, Export Bahrain, BTEA, Export Bahrain and Batelco, aims to utilize this opportunity as a catalyst for future economic growth and career.

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