Sheikh Isa Library and Conference Centre, Bahrain

Project: Structural roof
Location: Sheikh Isa Library, Manama, Bahrain
Client: MOWA
Architect: Arcade Consultants, Dr. Omar El Farouk & Associates
Engineering Consultants: Hosney Consulting Engineers
Main Contractor: Cybarco
Handover: 2003

The impressive Sheikh Isa Library, which sits next to the Grand Mosque on reclaimed land in the Bahraini capital Manama, houses over 250,000 titles and audio visual items. Conceived as one of the island’s signature cultural spaces, it has evolved into a multi-use venue featuring conference facilities.

While the building’s design aesthetic draws on Islamic influences, five huge shell vaults on the roof – designed and fabricated by BFG from a special composite – truly catch the eye. At 50 metres long, over 10 metres in height, with 16 metre span, and installed on light and simple steel supports, the 4000m2 FRP roof comprises 30 vast structural sandwich panels, each assembled on site to exacting performance standards.

​Rising to the challenge of building near the sea with high salinity in the air and soil, BFG
was able to deliver considerable savings in weight – and therefore foundation costs – while delivering a monolithic solution that minimised joints, and promised next to no maintenance over time.

The hallmark of this project was innovation at every step. Dedicated CNC cut tooling templates were developed for the fabrication of very large moulds at site. Laser projection was deployed to help shape the fluted parabolic surfaces, while a highly controlled polymerisation process was pioneered to ensure a uniform cure across large format composites.

To enable the fabrication of huge panels, larger than anything that could be carried by road, BFG built a temporary factory on site, replicating its quality systems to ensure the panels achieved the same standards as those made in BFG’s plants.