Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) sees the newly completed Four Seasons Hotel in the capital city of Manama, Bahrain, as a series of opportunities. “It’s not very often that you design the masterplan and then get to build on it. And there aren’t many standalone hotel projects either,” says project architect Thomas Behr. “We are building a relationship with the city, and we hope this project is part of the legacy and that it leads to other projects like it.” SOM designed its first project in Bahrain, the captivating United Gulf Bank, nearly thirty years ago. Behr says that these early schemes are still referenced to as some of the nicest in town. At The Four Seasons Hotel, the stakes were particularly high – to design an iconic waterfront hotel on a prominent 4,650,000 square foot plot, known as Bahrain Bay, that didn’t yet exist.
Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel
SOM’s 273-bedroom Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain is a new visual anchor in the city with its unusual composition of concrete piers and suspended volumes. It opens up a new world of luxury and is a story of dreams and changing fortunes.
Striking and intimate
Commissioned by Signature Hotels Management Company S.P.C., the project began in 2004 with a masterplan for reclaimed land arranged from the mainland in concentric circles. The 68-story Four Seasons Hotel is at the heart of this plan. It is lining up with the water canal to the sea behind, on its private twelve-acre island accessible by bridge or boat.
Behr explains, "The building’s design is informed by the need to make it striking on an urban scale, yet intimate for guests, so it feels like a resort. It is a very strong design when you look at it in the Bahrain skyline because it is so simple. The concrete clad ‘piers’ or ‘walls’ are very dominant. It makes a statement; it is a kind of gateway to the city. You can read the program of the building from the exterior. The so-called ‘skypod’ restaurant is in the suspended volume at the top, the guest bedrooms in the middle, and the lobby at the bottom.”
The urban ambitions come together to feel more resort-like at the tower’s base: through the landscaping, massing, and materiality. The textures and patterning on the concrete walls, as well as the limestone-clad podium, create an earthy, natural finish that prevents it from being bland and monolithic. The entranceway is made more intimate through the addition of an external bronze powder-coated aluminum ceilinged porte-cochere, which continues into the lobby. The impact of the 650 ft. tall tower is softened by a series of pavilions for the spa and conference facilities, as well as a Mediterranean-style garden planted with olive trees and wildflowers. The Reynaers products, selected by façade contractor Jungbluth Alu Partners because “the company has a long-standing good relationship with Reynaers and the service is very pro-active," says lead engineer Roland Jungbluth, add to this striking appearance and individual coziness. Each bedroom has full-height windows overlooking the bays, while the aluminum panels throughout the building visually connect the disparate volumes. In all, as Behr explains, The Four Seasons Hotel was a very important project to get built: “With all the difficulties Bahrain went through as a result of the global economic crisis, many projects got canceled. This is the first major project since and has kickstarted a new wave of development.”
Thomas Behr was born in Aachen, Germany in 1969. He graduated from the University of Technology in Aachen with a Bachelor in Architecture. Now he’s a director at SOM’s New York office. He joined the firm in 2000 and has since then worked on a diverse range of international projects. After predominantly working on European projects in his early years, Behr shifted his focus to the Middle East, where he oversees and coordinates all SOM’s efforts. He is currently managing the Kuwait University Student Activity and Athletic Facilities, Thakher City in Mecca, and the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi. Behr: “I believe that architects have a social, environmental, and economic responsibility, and understanding these responsibilities allows me to unlock the true value of a project.”
Roland Jungbluth was born in 1953 in Raeren, Belgium. He has more than thirty years of experience in the business - working as administrative director for almost twenty years at one of Belgium’s leading aluminum façade manufacturers Pomel Alu. In 2002, he set up Jungbluth Alu Partners (JAP) with the technical director and now partner André Muller. JAP is a specialist façade company that provides technical solutions for the external building envelope in design, engineering, work management, and construction. It is known for its cost-effective and flexible methods, including erecting onsite factories for each project. The company has completed projects all over the world: including the 985 ft. tall Aspire Tower in Doha, the Qatar National Convention Centre, and Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, all in partnership with Reynaers.
Systems: Bespoke solution based on CW 86-EF and CW 50-SC, CP 96, CS 77-FP
- 161,460 ft.² of façade
- 139,930 ft.² of CW 86-EF
- 21,530 ft.² of CW 50-SC, windows and doors
- Development of bespoke façade solutions based on the architect’s aesthetic requirements
- Piers: CW 86 unitized façade
- VERTICAL face caps:
- Flat caps beside the concrete cladding
- Intermediate caps: Very large face cap (15 3/4" D x 1 15/16" W) in two parts. Composition: profile + adjusted glazing bead + clamping profile + base profile face cap & second part face cap screwed together.
- HORIZONTAL face caps:
- 1st part cap: 1" D x 3 15/16" W
- 2nd part cap: 2 15/16" D x 1 15/16" W
- Same glazing bead with smaller clamping profile fixed on one part of the frame
- Guest rooms: CW 86 unitized façade
- Structural glazed façade with additional double row ‘finishing cap’ every 3 floors
- Glass glued on small profile screwed on bearing structure
- Finishing cap: 15 3/4" D x 3 15/16" W
- Podium (building base): CW 50-SC
- Steel reinforced CW 50 Slim Line
- Mullions in two parts mounted on steel core
- Combined with different standard transoms
- Piers: 5' 5 15/16" W x 12' 5 5/8" H (typical element)
- Guest rooms: 5' 8 7/8" W x 12' 5 5/8" H
- Skypod (top level floors): 6' 6 3/4" W x 17' 9 9/16" H
- 8/16/10 (vision glass)
- 8/9/10 (panel glass)