مكتب التأريخ التطبيقي أستوديو بحث وتطوير تجريبي يركز على جوانب بديلة للتاريخ الثقافي البحريني بهدف إعادة دمجها في الوعي الوطني السائد ويعرض بشكل دوري أعماله قيد التنفيذ في مكانه الكائن في سوق القيصرية بالمحرق

Office for Applied Histories is a research and experimental development studio focused on alternative facets of Bahraini cultural history with the aim of reintegrating these into the mainstream national consciousness. It periodically exhibits its works in progress at its space, located within Muharraq's Suq Al-Qaisariya.

من خلال التعاون والعمل على عدة أصعد يبادر المكتب بدعم عمليات المحافظة على شواهد التأريخات الذي يقوم بها، وفي اختلاف الظروف القائمة إما لدعم أو غياب أو تناقض الأطر المفاهيمية والمنهجية


Encouraging collaboration and cross-disciplinary working, Applied Histories actively supports the preservation of the histories it engages with, variably, in tandem, in absence or in opposition to existing conceptual and methodological frameworks.

يتعاون المكتب ومقيمينه في مبادرات بحثية تتعامل مع التاريخ الثقافي في سياقه المحلي و المجالي الأوسع. ويركز على ما قد يشكل تراثًا ماديِا و غير مادي أُبعِدَ على أسس الأحكام الجمالية أو لإستناداته الديموغرافية ويعطي الأولوية لمجالات بحثية تتميز بعدم وجود أو شح التوثيق والخطابات المحيطة بها وذلك باستخدام البحوث الأولية بما في ذلك الأساليب التقليدية والتجريبية. يشارك المكتب مناقشاته التي تشكل أساسًا لممارسته من خلال إقامة المعارض ونشر الكتابات الأكاديمية والصحفية

Applied Histories’ core team and residents collaborate on research initiatives that engage with cultural histories within their local context and their wider disciplinary boundaries. It advocates for the peripheral material, oral and spatial manifestations which may constitute tangible or intangible heritage, sidelined on aesthetic grounds and their demographic associations. It prioritizes areas of research characterized by an absence or limitation of existing documentation and discourse, utilizing original primary research, including conventional and experimental methods. The office disseminates its arguments, which serve as the basis of its practice, through exhibitions as well as published academic and journalistic writing.


British Bank of the Middle East
The 45th Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition
Manama, BH
20.02.19 — 30.03.19

The installation consists of a model and an accompanying text which explore the recent alterations to the British Bank of the Middle East - proposed and implemented - as reflective of existing conceptions of, and within, national aesthetic consciousness. Even in instances when aesthetic judgments seem haphazard, and to some unjustified, they are, in fact, historically contingent. The seemingly instinctual presumptions embody an attempt at both historical and self-reflexivity, predicated on the ways the past, present and imagined future is conceived at a given time.

The Arena
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Abdulla Janahi
Layla Al Shaikh
Anastasiia Noga

Accompanying text
A British practice, Wilson Mason & Partners commenced in 1926 with J.M. Wilson’s design of a palace for King Faisal of Iraq, subsequently developing on a United Kingdom-Middle East axis throughout the twentieth century, working almost exclusively on oil and chemical companies, banks and, to a lesser extent, other commercial commissions. Oil was variably founded in the early twentieth century across the Middle East, with imperial Britain the foreign nation then most involved in exploitation. Expedited by its founder’s political connections (Wilson had set up the Public Works department in Baghdad under the High Commissioner, Sir Arnold Wilson), oil was also to be at the core of the Wilson Mason practice, who would work with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – now British Petroleum – over the next century.

The very endurance of its relationships with its major clients allowed the practice to draw on precedence with every commission, while its growing portfolio within Middle East allowed it to develop a degree of contextual engagement that constituted a divergence from the work of other colonial architects whose style was essentially English, such as Edwin Lutyens, under whom Wilson had apprenticed. Throughout the century, it experienced the shifts in the scale of construction, and by extension, the penetration of concrete blocks, natural and artificial stonework, and terrazzo tiles.

By 1958, Wilson Mason would establish permanent offices in Tehran and Aden, followed by others in Doha and Abu Dhabi from 1976. The expanse of its commissions for the oil industry would naturally lead to connections with a variety of banks, with the infiltration of imperial and colonial banking and the diversification of Middle Eastern economies. The British Bank of the Middle East would become one of its earliest of such clients in the mid 1930s, when it commissioned its new premises in Bahrain, a British protectorate since the late nineteenth century. Over the next decades, the practice would work on branches of the British Bank in around forty locations across the Gulf states, Iran and North Africa, gradually incorporating air-conditioning, sound-proofing, telecommunications and computerised systems, as well as open-plans - developments in bank design originating from the City of London, the fulcrum of global finance.

The branch on Al Khalifa Avenue, completed by 1976, was Wilson Mason’s third for its long-standing client on the site. (HJSW Ltd London, 1986) By then, the practice’s sustained assimilation into the region could be identified in a seemingly formalistic regionalist sensitivity, generated by a combination of ornamentation – evident on an entrance adorned with Dilmun seals – reflecting ideological concerns of a now postcolonial context; and an aesthetic functionalism defined by climatic performance: its largely open-plan ensured that spaces received sunlight from long-strip side windows, allowing for a restrained front elevation with minimal openings. Inside, riven finish quartzite was used to pave public areas and the main staircase, as well as for the toe recesses of banking hall counters. These were faced in white marble, which also clad the lift housing walls and the main stairway of the entrance foyer. Teak panels faced the walls in executive offices and the free standing columns throughout. (Bank Head Office in Bahrain, 1977)

Until recently, the British Bank had stood abandoned within the souk, a commercial district with more than 130 later-modern architectures which are largely similarly dilapidated, when it was acquired by a private developer and underwent significant renovations. Initial proposals indicated a considerable ‘Orientalization’ of the main, north-facing façade, congruent with a wider tendency in alterations to said structures, in contradiction to established preservation practices. While the building was already undergoing renovations, and since it is located within the boundaries of Manama’s protected historic core, the relevant authorities proposed to restrain alterations to the entire building, and suggested to rehabilitate it to host the private investor’s activities. The concluding compromise would, however, result in the implemented architectural changes to the façade, generated to minimize further impacts.

Although the ornamented entrance is maintained, six large openings across the façade were added to provide natural lighting and views to executive offices. The perforated screens as well as the marble cladding in the lower-part were both removed. Said alterations, together with partitions added to enclose smaller workspaces throughout, reconfigure what constituted the building’s aesthetic functionalism and climatic performance. Additional interior changes include the removal of the remaining marble from the entrance foyer and the vertical circulation area, although the mural by British industrial designer William Mitchell has been maintained.

The British Bank is a tangible, single lens through which to question dominant discourses specifically because of where it stands on notions of colonialism, national aesthetic consciousness and modernity. Consistent with the logic of the post-structuralist approach to resist any attempts of invalidation of certain appreciations of history and the formulation of a canonized, absolutist judgement, the installation shows the history not as linear or progressive, but multilayered and constantly in flux. It allows us to explore notions of multiplicity vis-à-vis historical and self-reflexivity, as predicated on fragmented individual and collective identities, without drawing conclusions on the built form.

The British Bank of the Middle East is reflective of existing conceptions of, and within, national aesthetic consciousness. The original design of the building, proposed renovations and the finalized alterations reflect divergent approaches to engagement with historical context. Even in instances when aesthetic judgments seem haphazard, and to some unjustified, they are, in fact, historically contingent. The seemingly instinctual presumptions embody an attempt at both historical and self-reflexivity, predicated on the ways the past, present and imagined future is conceived at a given time, and are, thus, indicative of wider processes that inform these reflexivities. In order to confront any attempts of invalidation, aesthetic judgments should be understood not as universal but dependent on material conditions of different actors within the social structures which uphold the economic system.

Recent developments surrounding the branch facilitate a nuanced comprehension and re-consideration not only of the legislative boundaries in Bahrain, but of the underlying connections between economic system and structures of knowledge production. The building of the British Bank was brought about by colonial structures, while the regionalist modernism it exemplified was subsequently sidelined by those very structures which aligned canonizations of the modern movement with economic supremacies established through imperial legacy. Contemporary architectural culture, still focused on the New York-London-Venice axis that was consolidated in the late 1970s, continues to sustain these hierarchical systems of cultural dismissal.

While the British Bank is a more explicit tool of global capitalism, the tangible facets of the urban sphere might embody its values tacitly - the infiltration of modern buildings into the souk reifies the economic aspirations of modernization. Resistance to these processes, in this case, to the infiltration of foreign banking earlier in the century and heightened anti-British sentiment later on had, at times, clear spatial manifestations. While both the built environment and the spatial events it contains are reflective of many conflicting processes, it is important to consider the role of the intangible in Manama’s urban history through both historiography and preservation.

Bank Head Office in Bahrain; Architects: Wilson Mason & Partners. (1977) Interior Design, March 1977, p. 129. HJSW Ltd London. (1986).
Wilson Mason & Partners: 60th Anniversary. [booklet] HSBC Group Archives, HQ HSBCPR 0300-0000a. London.

Office for Applied Histories
69b, Road 1501, Suq al-Qaisariya
Muharraq, BH
08.12.20 — 30.12.20

The display is open Friday to Wednesday, 9am-7pm and on Thursdays, 9am-8pm

The open studio is structured around two internal site visits, and three documentation sessions, during which the contents of the display will change

Session I: 08.12.20, 5-7pm
Session II:  18.12.20, 5-7pm
Session III: 24.12.20, 5-7pm 

Abdulla Janahi, Laila Al Shaikh – Applied Histories
Sara Ali – Researcher, Applied Histories
Wala’a Halwachi – photographer
Imogen Piper – graphics

On-Grid Architectures is an ongoing investigation into recurrent fire and structural collapse incidents in historic buildings-cum-labour camps, with a proposition that encapsulated within are the broader politics of Bahrain’s contemporary and specific spatial organization of labour. These kinetic events are approached as a retroactive opportunity for inquiry into a set of preceding and succeeding temporalities – as well as an expanded force field of perpetration – that hinge on the moment of ignition, otherwise of a transient perceptibility, so they may be rendered intelligible. The open studio simultaneously presents the progress of the remote, open-source investigation, and defines a window of intensified fieldwork around the retrieval, reassembly, classification and documentation of artefacts for further study.

Here, the timeline visualizes two interrelated databases as they currently stand, an ongoing process that involves systematically data-mining daily issues of Al-Ayam published from 2013 to the present. Within the primary database, each article archived is coded, and a tagging system is embedded to filter articles by relevant incident or ‘governing’ entity. On a secondary database, relevant incidents are coded and geolocated, and logged on are details on the incident and site, state and civil society responses, as well as any resulting adjudications.

Within the studio, and amongst remnants sourced from geolocated sites, component parts of a dissembled LPG cylinder, each governed by international, regional and national standards are individually documented and archived. The exercise is preparatory but crucial in adopting the cylinder, a recurring element within a pattern of events, as a conceptual and evidentiary tool. A quasi-autonomous object, it facilitates: the understanding of the camp as an extension of its volumetric space; and a possible counter-mapping of the labour market that underpins said incidental manifestations, by offering an entry point into labour practices that intersect logistical and infrastructural apparatuses of extraction, refining, design, production, distribution, installation, degradation, maintenance and waste.



Office for Applied Histories
House of Architectural Heritage,
Muharraq, BH
20.10.19 — 20.11.19

In its first exhibition, Office for Applied Histories presents selections from its ongoing research into Manama souk’s later-modern architecture, framed by its attempts at establishing correlative interdependencies between the market’s changing morphology and its functions within Manama’s urban economy.

Saturday to Thursday 
9am-1pm, 4pm-7pm

House of Architectural Heritage,
Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research

Muharraq, BH
Laila Al Shaikh, Abdulla Janani, Anastasiia Noga and Batool Al Mosawi – Applied Histories

Ali J. Ali – Bahrain Economists Society
Khalifa Shaheen – photographer
Gintare Sii – graphic designer 

Acknowledgements – Noura Al Sayeh, Batool Al Shaikh, Dr. Isa Amin, Hala Yateem, Isa Al Zeera, Ebrahim Al Shakhoori, Regie Dalupang, Aravind M. Gopinathan, Dr. Ali J. Al-Moulani, Fatin Al Alawi, Fatima Burashed

Supported by

The display at House of Architectural Heritage is anchored by architectural drawings of case studies relevant to the research’s current trajectory, variably dating from the 1970s and 1980s, and models-in-progress reconstructing the very sites on which they stand, as they appeared in 1951.  

Here, the office continues to pursue its interest in focusing on the relationship between the souk’s built heritage and the shifting economic structures of the market itself, the port to which it was adjacent, Manama as an urban economic hamlet, the country at large, and, finally, global capitalism. Underlining the choice of case studies are its members’ interests in as follows: the relationship between the traditional sub-districts grouped by petty craftsmanship and the arcades that replaced them; the effects the processes of state centralization and financialization had on the urban fabric; the role of the port in discourses surrounding colonial legacy, decolonization, and propagation of logistics within globalized economies; and the relationship between the public sphere of the souk, strategies of urban planning and the service economy.

The displayed reconstructions – reflecting the current progress of a continuous process of cross-referencing disparate archival material, including historical surveys, architectural drawings, photographs and oral testimonies – prelude a proposed visualization of significant spatial events that occurred shortly thereafter, by an attempt at understanding their physical context. Put forward is the conjecture that these, through their intersection with the office’s aforementioned interests and by revealing the spatial dimensions of the public sphere, are foremost amongst a set of complex causalities that restructured the town as a whole, and brought about the very late-modern architectures which underpin the research.

At the core of the The Modern Souk lies the dual hypothesis that the regionalist modernisms of the market should be viewed as both an embodiment of the local, national, regional and global spatiotemporal organizations, as well as a catalyst of the irreversible material and immaterial changes to Manama’s urban environment. Tracing the unfolding of the social, cultural, economic and political processes in between the two time periods represented by the models and architectural drawings serves as a central conceptual device that can enable us to reconcile the tension symbolized by the architectural modernization of the souk.


69B, Road 1501. Suq al-Qaisariya. Muharraq