A partially destroyed market building is the setting of a stunning minimalist renovation and restoration in Bahrain. Dutch architecture studio Anne Holtrop has brought new life to Qaysariyah Suq—a historic shop and warehouse on an old trade route stop.
The careful renovation strategically balanced new design with ancient architecture. Traditional buildings still comprise a majority of Bahrain's structures, so it was crucial to adhere to a sense of the old design to fit within the city's fabric. The renovation is careful to preserve as much of the original structure as possible while still breathing new life into the building.
As the roof and walls were mostly missing, the decision to repair the exterior was pivotal. Holtrop chose a unique route: they cast concrete in moulds with sand ends. The result is a facade that beckons to the history of the city while firmly referencing modern architecture. The gigantic concrete slabs feel like natural stone and give an ancient and mysterious air to the facade.
The flat roof is a particularly clever move. The modern form solves a structural problem while creating smart overhangs for sun protection and hidden lighting. Allowing the roof slab to perform several tasks enable the building to remain minimal while still providing the elements required of a public structure.
The soft colour of the concrete blends nearly perfectly with the ancient cobblestone streets in Bahrain. The scale of the building is quite assuming, and even the shop storefronts are set in an unassuming manner along the street. Small sets of stairs lead to the interior, where the guiding aesthetic continues.
Concrete covers the interior's walls, floors, and ceiling, the clean lines broken only by the floor-to-ceiling panes of glass. Bare stairs lead to the upper levels, one of which houses an elegant rooftop terrace. Warm sunlight pours into the space, casting abstract light forms on the cool grey walls.
Qaysariyah Suq Restored proves that renovations do not have to live firmly in the past. Ancient architecture is undoubtedly unique, but ancient architecture combined with modern minimalism? That is a truly rare piece of design.