The Al Dana Amphitheater is an open-air performance space built in the Sakhir Desert, Bahrain, that hosts live events under the stars. Designed by S/L Architects, the project seeks to connect with nature through its context-specific design and minimal environmental footprint.
S/L Architects’ design of the project maximizes the site’s natural characteristics and environmental features to amplify visitors’ experiences. This includes taking into consideration the natural terrain, sun path and prevailing winds to create the architects’ desired atmosphere.
The amphitheater’s fan-shaped form is carved into a limestone quarry and is oriented to feature the nearby mountain, Jebel al-Dukhan, as a scenic backdrop. The sun rises above the mountain in the east and sets behind the audience in the west. Additionally, the prevailing wind from the northwest carries sounds from the performers onstage toward the audience. This maximizes acoustic quality and natural cooling.
Further, the architects studied how sound moves through space for optimal acoustics and views of the stage. For the best visual and auditory access to the performers, the audience sits on long, curvilinear benches that are split into three, to create two access paths. To pay homage to the site and its terrain, these chunky concrete benches are also designed to appear as if they are carved out of the limestone quarry. By designing the space as such, the arena becomes flexible enough to cater to a variety of events, especially concerts and music festivals, while preserving the site’s identity.
Besides the main open-air amphitheater, the project features interior spaces for administration and leisure. Meanwhile, a leaf-shaped office building sits adjacent to the arena and is dedicated to managing the venue’s administrative requirements. Its rooftop terrace offers views of the amphitheater and nearby race track. For performers, the Quarry Lounge on the basement level serves as a private retreat space. It features the site’s signature limestone and includes dressing rooms, a game room, a restaurant and VIP suites.
Alongside harnessing the site’s environmental factors to enhance the space, the amphitheater features a plethora of repurposed and recycled materials. These include rock quarried from the site for gabion walls and fixtures, as well as shipping containers for corporate boxes. Inside, even more recycled materials are incorporated to match the exterior design language. Quarried limestone, recycled rubber flooring, epoxy-coated raw concrete and recycled wood give the interiors an industrial feel. These materials were used instead of tiling and painting, to maximize longevity in the harsh desert climate.
By taking advantage of the site’s natural resources and environmental factors, S/L Architects have managed to create Bahrain’s first 10,000-seater venue. The amphitheater’s modern yet site-specific aesthetic and its well-designed spaces serve as an invitation to artists on an international scale. In creating the space, S/L Architects encourages a connection to the arts among residents in the small country.
Images via S/L Architects