Sous les Pavés la Plage
Bab Al-Bahrain Competition, 2012

Project Team:
El Hadi Jazairy + Rania Ghosn
Charlie Rhodes, Christopher Reznich, Andrew Frame

On March 18, 2011, the Pearl Roundabout, the hub of Bahrain's rebellion was destroyed in the wake of a month-long campaign of protests and civil disobedience,. After demolishing the Pearl Monument, the government announced that that its name would be changed to Al Farooq Junction and that the roundabout would be replaced with traffic lights in order to ease congestion in the financial district. In November 2011, Bab Al Bahrain Open Ideas Competition invited local and international architects to “propose a viable urban square” and in the light of recent political events that have taken place across the region, “question what a contemporary public space in the Arab World should look like.”

Design Earth submitted an entry entitled Sous les Pavés la Plage in reference to both the physical world of water beneath the reclaimed ground and to the Situationist International slogan used during the protests of May '68 in Paris. At the geographic scale, the project responds to the geographic condition of ground reclamation along the Bahraini waterfront, whereby over the last decades, large landforms were carved out from the sea surface to fashion valuable waterfront real estate. Such expansion of the land over the water physically and symbolically has progressively distanced the sea from older parts of the city all while deferring public interests to the economy.

Rather than piling up earth for the production of “real” value, the project excavates the ground to formalize a collective. The project consists of a series of artificial islands for collective life, each completely different yet each holds the others in balance on a shared plinth. The project seeks thus to embody the formal possibilities of a collective, not as an ideological homogenizing totality, but as a group form of embedded pluralism: an architecture for the political. The urban project embraces ground manipulation as an architectural strategy.

The ground folds up and depresses to articulate a series of surfaces: sunken beach, reading hammock-oasis, green ramp-seating, skate park, etc.
Such outlines a central limestone platform, which opens up multiple programmatic possibilities of market stalls, soccer games, food carts, or music events.
A series of figures assemble onto the plinth: immersive children museum, post office, a solar balloon, and archives-stacks.

The project shifting the ground of urban citizenship from being an identity to being an activity that articulates, claims, and renews group rights in and through the creation of lived and represented spaces in the city.