Kingdom of Bahrain National Participation at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia — Arsenale
29th August — 21st November 2010

RECLAIM is the national participation of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the Biermale Architettura 2010, marking the first participation of a Gulf State at this prestigious architectural gathering. The exhibition was commissioned by her Excellency Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture, and runs from the 29th of August to the 21st of November 2010. The pavilion is located in the Arsenale Artigliere.

The Exhibition

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.

Download A Coastal Promenade PDF


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.

Download The Sea Interviews PDF



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.

Download Mapping PDF


Noura Al-Sayeh

Noura Al-Sayeh (1983) is an architect currently working at the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) as Head of Architectural Affairs, where she is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of cultural institutions and museums as well as the creation of an active agenda of exhibitions and academic exchange initiatives. Previously, she worked as an architect in New York, Jerusalem and Amsterdam. She was the co-curator of Reclaim, Bahrain’s first participation at the 12th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, which was awarded the Golden Lion for best national participation and the curator of Background, Bahrain’s second participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012, and the deputy general commissioner for the Bahrain Pavilion at the Expo Milan 2015.


Bahrain Urban Research Team

The Bahrain Urban Research Team comprises six young researchers Tamadher Al Fahal, Fay Al Khalifa, Mona Yateem, Fatema Al Hammadi, Deena Ashraf, Mohammad Al Qari.

Camille Zakharia

Camille Zakharia is a documentary photographer and collage artist. Born in 1962 in Tripoli, Lebanon, the artist has lived in Bahrain for close to twenty years. He holds a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada.

Zakharia has lectured and led numerous workshops on both documentary photography and photocollage practices. His work has been exhibited extensively, including at AlieNation (Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah UAE, 2012), Photoquai (Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2011), Freedom (Chobi Mela V, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2009), My Father’s House: The Architecture of Cultural Heritage (British Council touring exhibition, 2009–10), Jameel Prize 2009 (V&A touring exhibition, 2009–2010), Sharjah Biennal 8 (2007), The Lands Within Me: Expressions by Canadian Artists of Arab Origin (Canadian Museum of Civilisation, Ottawa, 2001–2003). His project, Coastal Promenade was the photographic essay for the Reclaim project that won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010 for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Camille Zakharia’s works can be found in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Hull Quebec, Canada), the Musée Suisse de l’Appareil Photographique (Vevey, Switzerland), the Wichita Center for the Arts (Wichita Kansas, USA), the National Museum of Bahrain (Manama Bahrain), the Qatar Museum Authority (Doha, Qatar) and the Barjeel Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE).


Camille Zakharia

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Ministry of Culture
Kingdom of Bahrain

Sh. Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa

Noura Al-Sayeh
Dr. Fuad Al Ansari

Exhibition design
Harry Gugger (lapa)
Leopold Banchini (lapa)

Local coordinator
Stefano Tropea
Graphic design
Valentin Brustaux

Philip Enquist (SOM)
Suha Mattar (Moirai partner)
Michael Arora

Research team
Tamadher Al Fahal
Fay Al Khalifa
Mona Yateem
Fatema A1 Hammadi
Deena Ashraf
Mohammad Al Qari



Standalone site

Laboratoire Bâle (laba)

University of Bahrain

Camille Zakharia