By Noor Nooruddin

With only 10 days left until the opening of Bahrain’s first creative open space, we go behind the scene to meet the creative duo behind Malja’s design vision. Meet Conor and Sara!

When creating a space, any kind of space, you need more than just a basic template to work from. You need a concept. But more than that, you need people who are creative enough and passionate enough to feed into the space, to develop the concept into real-life manifestations of the space’s message. This is where Spoon dESIGN consultants comes in, and where its founders, Conor and Sara, become one of the main designers of the Malja Bahrain space.

Conor Maguire is a design architect who’s dedicated to design that is environmental, message-focused, and avant garde. “As a design studio, we always want to push boundaries in whatever project we do.” So it’s no wonder that he’s taken the role of the main designer of the Malja space. Conor described the process of delving into the intricacies of the project’s brand and core concept, “When we found out that Malja means ‘refuge’ or ‘shelter,’ it just made sense to merge the two (Red Bull and Malja) together and put it into architectural form.

“We always had the idea that a refuge is like a bird’s wing, kind of covering and protecting the shelter, so with that in mind, we tried to create a dynamic bird’s wing landing on the building using the old supermarket shelves that were going to be thrown out of the space.” While studying the model on the table next to him, I was wondering how he found it so easy to create something so bold and resourceful. He proceeded to explain that the process was more complex than it looks, and they definitely had to go through many prototypes before they got it the way they wanted it. “The metal panels of the shelving are impossible to bend, so architecturally we were restricted in ways where we couldn’t get the lightness of feathers, so we made it look dynamically light and like it was resting on top of the building.”

And that’s just the outside! We can’t wait to see the work being done in the entirety of Malja, where Conor has been working since the start of construction. The design architect’s passion really shines through in his work, and a lot of it has to do with his connection with the project’s purpose, “What I’ve noticed in Bahrain in the last seven years that I’ve been here is that there’s a lot of creative communities and underground scenes all over the island, but there’s no place where young people who may be shy or need an opportunity can go, nowhere to uplift their skills and their talents or to uplift them. So with Malja, it’s perfect and it’s the right time, it’s a pure platform for everyone to collaborate together and teach young and emerging artists.”


The other side of the Spoon is landscape architect, Sara Valente, who immediately saw an opportunity to put some landscape magic into Malja. “Conor was developing the architectural sides of the project and the interior, and there was an opportunity for me to be involved as a landscape architect.” Sara is currently developing one of the sides of Malja’s building for a landscape architectural treatment. “My intent is to avoid the traditional approach to landscape design. Not much is known about landscape architecture, so it’s immediately associated only with planting. So I took this as an opportunity to showcase how broad the spectrum of working in landscape architecture is, because landscaping is also a form of art.” Sara explained that she’s working on the side where graffiti art will be displayed, and playing with the concept of framing a work of art using the current landscape, recycling electrical pipes that were no longer being used. “The graffiti wall is the main canvas; it’s going to be a really important art piece for the space, and it’s going to be dynamic and constantly changing with different artists, you’ll always experience the wall differently with each different angle.”

I, for one, cannot wait to see the finished products of their avant garde approach to Malja’s design. It’s undeniable that the co-founders of Spoon are committed to Malja and constructing the space into a real-life manifestation of what it represents as an arms-wide-open platform for both established and emerging artists.


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