The concept of Al Dana was to create an amphitheatre in the natural setting of the desert site location, respecting the nature of the surroundings, the location's individual characteristics, such as sun paths and shadows, wind direction and terrain. This is ultimately what I felt would elicit the strongest bond to that nature, allowing the amphitheatre to be part of its existence and unique to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Our location features the backdrop of ‘Jebel al-dukhan’ (loosely translated - smoke mountain), a low-level mountain range as a skyline, that was a dominant factor in the decision making of orientation, placement and materiality informing the inspiration and design direction behind Al Dana.
The layout was chosen to maximize the unique characteristics of the site. The predominant NW & NE wind direction complimenting and assisting the direction of the sound. While the mountain backdrop and the sun path rising from behind the mountain and setting behind the audience, along with the site location parallel with the straight between turns 3 and 4 of the Formula 1 Bahrain International Circuit, all directly informed the layout. The choice of materials are of the said environment and/or has the qualities to resist the harshest of climates.
The use of quarried rock and boulders in gabion walls, public lavatories sinks, bar features and natural walls, in addition to sheet piles for cladding including the first 3rd of the 90m length of the theatre space, recycled tire floors for the office, shipping pallets wood for office screens, dividers and counters, and reused shipping containers to create the corporate boxes that sit atop the VIP balconies. Other low impact decisions were the elimination of materials where they were not required, such as tiles, rather the use of raw concrete walls with epoxy finish in all public lavatories, reducing the wastage associated with tile use. The intent to re-use outdoor materials indoor continued the design language throughout the project, Tyrolean wall finish, sheet piling, epoxy coated raw concrete, quarried limestone and recycled wood. When choosing the furniture and some of the fit-out material to soften the spaces, aged leather couches were used, and some of the bars and counters utilized actual Fender amplifiers vinyl and speaker cloth in their design, accented only by low level ambient side lighting to accentuate.
As many of the interior spaces are shaped around the surroundings, the resulting layouts are unorthodox, with few straight lines that occupy several levels, as such all the interior designs are in essence derived from the shapes provided.
During the pre-engineering design stage, ARUP Amsterdam were instrumental in assessing the efficacy of the sound dispersion through an EASE (Enhanced Acoustic Simulator for Engineers) model, informing decisions pertaining to line array locations and elevations and affirming the aesthetic material choices for the outer walls.
As a music enthusiast, and having a cursory knowledge of stage requirements in terms of providing comfort and ease for a performer, along with interviews with musicians and research into most open-air amphitheatres is what informed items such as, locations of guitar pedal boards, microphones, racks etc, but also proximity of showers and lavatories to the stage, green rooms and the intimacy of a venue as far as size, rake and scale, to engage with the audience and inspire a truly memorable performances, that are both inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable.
Growing up in Bahrain, with little in the way of live music created a vibrant amateur music subculture, in lieu of international attractions. By providing the first 10,000-seater venue of its kind, the community can finally benefit from a dedicated facility to inspire and provoke past and future generations to create art of the highest quality and emulate the upcoming featured artists, aspirations that can raise standards to international levels and culturally compete on the most prestigious stages.