A car-free, urban oasis for a Mideast hot spot 

How do you bring old and new concepts of urban life together in a way that addresses climate issues in public space?

Paris-based Influx Studio’s proposal for Manama, Bahrain, does so by bringing people together in a walkable, pedestrian-centered “urban oasis” with plenty of cultural amenities and shunting automobile traffic belowground.

The Bab Al Bahrain Urban Oasis is a proposal for Manama, an evolving financial hub of the Middle East, that would create a “soft transition” between two different urban scales — the traditional historic city and the new waterfront skyline — with a green, high-profile public square. 

The strategy is to move cars down out of the public sphere via an underground bypass that will relieve congestion over the city’s historic gate while enhancing east-west connectivity with a more fluid expressway. 

The pedestrian square would be covered with a “monumental urban canopy” not unlike a parasol, designed to provide shade, shelter and comfort to the pedestrian areas below.

Evolo reports that this geometrical roof structure provides shade and shelter, along with garden patios and green slopes, for pedestrians to enjoy. 

It also works to create a hospitable microclimate year-round via seven circular sunken gardens (which will be showcased as world vegetal biomes, incorporating both native and foreign plants) that filter storm water, a green roof, passive solar orientation and geothermal cooling. 

The structure also makes use of a solar photovoltaic system, designed to provide power to the complex — which is slated to include urban amenities such as shops, restaurants, bookstores and cafes — saving energy consumption and reducing CO2 emissions.

To reduce water consumption overall, the gardens will also be put to work in filtering part of the waste water produced by the cultural facilities (graywater, we assume) using wetland plants naturally adapted to the purpose.

The idea is to create a cool, hospitable indoor/outdoor public sphere that’s welcoming to pedestrians, shoppers and tourists, not unlike a historic urban center, incorporating the very latest in urban design, and allowing cars to travel underground.

* Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling