Historically, Bahrain, situated between such major cultures as Mesopotamia and India, was an important trade centre. This historic role produced a unique cultural heritage spanning 6000 years, evidenced by the richness of physicaI remains uncovered recently by international teams of archaeologists. In 1982, the Government of Bahrain decided to replace the existing, inadequate display facilities with a new, purpose built museum.
The museum is part of a proposed civic complex, which will include the national library, exhibition halls, and an aquarium. At present, only the museum and the arcade, which will form the centre of the complex, have been built. In the museum itself, a central spine turned at a 45 degree angle gives access to four cubic gallery blocks. These massive, square, stone boxes form the exhibition spaces. The façades are totally blank, and the galleries are lit artificially to avoid possible deterioration of exhibits. The foyer, however, is roofed with concrete barrel vaults at different levels, allowing the strong sunlight to wash the walls in streaks and splashes. The introvertive nature of the plan form combines the requirements for exhibiting delicate artefacts with the need to respect local climatic conditions, and a certain reference to indigenous architectural images.