BAHRAINI architects and researchers Maryam Aljomairi and Latifa Alkhayat have created a cool pavilion at one of Europe’s most prestigious design expos highlighting water scarcity in the kingdom and how to reuse condensation and droplets from air conditioning.

Their inspiring open space, titled ‘Sweating Assets’, has green enthusiasts perspiring over its drip, dripping perfection at this year’s International Architecture Exhibition in Italy – La Biennale di Venezia (the architectural biennale of Venice).

“The name is layered,” said Ms Alkhayat, 26, who has a Bachelor’s of Science in architecture from the University of Bath, a Masters of architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has worked at Maryland Institute College of Art Architects and Grimshaw Architects in London, as well as a researcher at MIT.

“Firstly, it stems from a financial term entailing the use of existing resources to their best capacity. Secondly, it is the literal sweating and wicking of water that air conditioners and buildings (the assets) perform.”

The unique large scale installation is literally a living, growing work of art and part of a project which has encouraged architects, engineers, designers and other participants to explore new possibilities to shape different pathways to the future.

The pavilion was designed under the event’s theme, ‘The Laboratory of the Future’, which was developed by architect, educator and novelist Lesley Lokko, who is also the Architecture Biennale’s first curator of African descent.

Located in Artiglierie and commissioned by Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca) president Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the pavilion explores the unique condition of extreme heat and humidity, alongside current demands for comfort in Bahrain.

“Our focus revolved around identifying potential assets within Bahrain’s current infrastructure to address water scarcity, rather than starting anew,” said Ms Aljomairi, 28, who has a Bachelors in architecture from the American University of Sharjah, a Master of Science in Computational Design from MIT and has worked in a design studio in New York City, as well as at Baca.

The exhibition’s micro-environment is a choreography of temperature, humidity and condensation.

According to Ms Alkhayat, who is working on a venture called Harness the Heat that utilises wasted heat in cities like New York to create comfortable urban furniture, the materials and mediums used for the installation is ‘a dichotomy of industrial and natural palettes’.

“The glass volume there is steel framed, reminiscent of contemporary materials and hermetically-sealed dwellings,” she explained. “In contrast, a rammed earth landscape sits adjacent and spreads across the space, made of a mixture of sand and clay local to Venice.”

Complementing the installation is Petrichor, a film by Saleh Jamsheer, produced with the curators, alongside music by Vijay Rajkumar.

The publication ‘Sweating Assets: On Climate Conditioning and Ecology’ also supports the exhibition with numerical analysis and qualitative speculations and writings.

The duo collaborated with hydro-geologist Dr Waleed Al Zubari, marine biologist Dr Reem Al Mealla, anthropologist Marwa Alkoheji, artist/architect Nasser Alzayani, engineer Hajer Budhahi, designers and others in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US.

The exhibition will run until November 26, leaving the space to continue changing over the next five months in correspondence to the environment, the temperature and the humidity.

In the meantime, they are observing the relationship between the water condensate that’s being generated from the volume as well as the micro-ecology that’s growing.

Apparently, within two weeks of installing the exhibition, which was opened to the public on May 20, and after the water started to form and accumulate, the plants around it started to bloom and attract life.

Pigeons came in prior to the water generation and were picking on the plants and drinking from the water, hence it will be interesting to see how the space will unfold.

“This was a rare opportunity to participate in a renowned international platform not just as exhibitors but also assuming the role of curators, designers, researchers and editors at the thresholds of our careers,” added Ms Aljomairi, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University.


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