The much-publicized urban transformations of the Gulf region have been radical in their reshaping of the urban form. Nowhere is it more apparent than along the coastline, where 80 years of accumulative land reclamation in the Kingdom of Bahrain have signiﬁcantly transformed the relation to the sea. An island nation once completely dependent on the sea, through its ﬁshing and pearling activities has today nearly turned its back to it. Nearly, albeit for the high-rises competing for a postcard view of the sea and a few disseminated ﬁshermen’s huts searching for a slice of sea along the temporary coastline. Reclaim is an investigation into the socio-political changes that have lead to the current state of affairs in view of stimulating a debate on future planning policies. The geographical retracing of national boundaries has been accompanied by a more profound social transformation — a decline of sea culture in favour of a more generic urban lifestyle. Beyond the ecological impact of land reclamation, it is an investigation into these resulting social implications through the value given to the coast as a public space. Three ﬁshermen’s huts disrupted from their original sites in Bahrain form the focal point of the exhibition. The awkwardness of their situation, disconnected from their coastal scenery, relates to the discomfort of our current relation vis a vis the coastline. This architecture without architects, through the immediacy of its architectural form, speaks of the quest for a more direct relation to the sea. hi line with the theme of this year’s Biennale, it offers the visitors the chance to experience rather than observe architecture and, through a series of interviews allows them to engage with the anonymous architects and ﬁshermen of these huts as they speak about their relation to the sea. In the 1920s, similar informal coastal structures, el door, were the gathering places of pearl divers hosting the ﬁrst organized syndicates. Today, scattered here and there, at the edge of the reclaimed and soon to be claimed sea, the huts host ﬁve o’clock tea sessions and backgammon games; a small attempt to reclaim a zest of leisurely coastal space.
A Coastal Promenade
Camille Zakharia, a Bahraini based photographer was commissioned to conduct a photographic documentation of the varied coastal areas of the Kingdom. His portfolio, A Coastal Promenade, illustrates in an objective manner, the variety of the coastal landscape, ranging from the more sombre themes of the ecological effects of land reclamation to a lighter look at the way in which these coastal areas are being appropriated by their users.
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The Sea Interviews
The Sea Interviews, directed by the Bahraini movie producer and director, Mohammed Rashid Bu Ali, are the result of a series of interviews conducted by the Bahrain Urban Research Team along the coastal areas of the Island during the months of April and May 2010. The interviews dwell on the relation Bahrainis entertain with the sea, their personal account of the changes that have altered their access to it and their thoughts and aspirations as to how matters could be improved.
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The Bahraini Urban Research Team, comprising of a team of six young researchers, were responsible for an extensive study which investigates the geographical and urban changes affecting the coastal areas of the island from the 1930 till today, as well as identifying the multiple social, political and economic factors which contributed to this evolution.
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