Project: Composite dome
Location: Al Fateh Grand Mosque, Manama, Bahrain
Client: Al Fateh Grand Mosque
Architect: Dar Al Handasah EngineeringConsultants: Dar Al Handasah Main Contractor: Consolidated Contractors Company
Al-Fateh Grand Mosque in Bahrain’s capital Manama is one of the largest in the world, encompassing 6,500m2, with capacity for over 7,000 worshippers. In the mid 1980s, BFG was tasked with developing the mosque’s signature dome on a scale that has yet to be matched. Thirty years on, it remains in pristine condition.
The mosque’s sheer scale gave it immediate landmark status, with no fewer than four domes and two minarets. Its traditional centrepiece was awe-inspiring: the architect’s vision called for a huge central dome with a 26 metre diameter.
Bahrain’s Grand Mosque was not without its challenges. Built near the sea, the soft soil meant deep piles were needed. A heavy chandelier to be suspended below the main dome added to the structural complexity of the project. And technical solutions had to be fast-tracked in a short project window to meet the contractor’s timeline.
BFG’s lightweight composite dome structure totaled approximately 30 tonnes in weight – a fraction of the concrete alternative – eliminating the need for the heaviest foundations.
The dome was fabricated in 24 external segments, complete with insulation, and fixed to a lightweight aluminum space frame, which also secured a series of 293 internal decorative composite panels made in a range of colours with design elements in relief.
Below the internal dome, a beautiful ring of 3 metre high calligraphy covers the circumference of the ring beam, beneath which four stone arches reach down to the floor to form the main square.
Painstakingly hand made utilizing conventional plywood and MDF for the tooling, the dome’s single skin FRP panels were produced locally in Bahrain, and designed to be fire retardant to Class 1 BS476 Part 6. BFG was able to achieve a simulated cement texture on the dome segments, designed perfectly to match the matt, sandy exterior of the main building below.
On site, our installation team worked to build the dome in less than a month, a real time saving over concrete. Three decades later, it remains in pristine condition – despite its coastal location, with high airborne salinity and high corrosion potential.