Most recent realisation of Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati, Pearling Site Museum and Entrance on the Bahrain island Muharraq, is an important symbolic place for the island community whose identity is based on the tradition of pearl harvesting. Olgiati’s unique architectural expression, specific creative personality and carefully planned media placement of his works have encouraged a somewhat different critical review so we are presenting the project through a conversation with the author made by British architect David Adjaye via an internet platform. Olgiati and Adjaye discuss architectural activity in a globalised world, relation with the heritage, timeless forms and materiality in architecture – topics that occupy the central position in their respective oeuvres.
David Adjaye: Let us start off by speaking about what drew you to the geography of Bahrain and why you accepted this commission.
Valerio Olgiati: The commission was awarded by an invited competition from the Bahrain Authority of Culture and Antiquities. The president of the Authority, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, wanted to make a clear statement with this building. Along with the Director of Architecture, Noura Al Sayeh, their wish for the building was to give a cultural and public value to the city of Muharraq and its people. I have to say that I found this ambition to be extremely exciting and enriching. From the start I felt that the client strongly believed in giving my office maximum responsibility and freedom to create. Without a doubt, their trust and highly refined collaboration had a direct influence on how strong the architecture is.