How can the urban campus become
BLUE TAPE TOWER
In collaboration with Ali Chen
The international [AC-CA] organization’s open competition challenged entries to offer alternative environments for education in the form of a vertical campus tower in the rapidly densifying urban skyline of Dubai. Given the typically horizontal arrangement of educational building typologies, the project became an opportunity to investigate how density & verticality demanded by towers can be advantageously utilized in the education of the architecture & design disciplines. By doing so, it provides a model that challenges conventional programmatic relationships and suggests a new elemental building block for the organization of the traditional educational institution.
Blue Tape is a vertical re-imagining of the typical architecture school typology. Located within the American University of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, this satellite campus houses an international architecture program that serves as a potential model for vertical education in a densifying city obsessed with its iconic architectural skyline.
At the core of Blue Tape is the concept of the "pin-up space": a place where students share their ideas, collaborate with their peers, and participate in academic critique of their designs with instructors and colleagues. Blue Tape re-identifies the pin-up space as the integral tool of the architectural education, and recognizes that in many examples of current schools it is often pushed to the margins of physical space as an afterthought, relegated to unused surface walls. Placed within the tower typology, the typically horizontal pin-up program becomes vertical, forming a visual, physical, and conceptual connector for the tower. As one moves upward, the pin-up space forms the conceptual 'spine' of larger public programs: classrooms, workshops, an auditorium, a library, event and gallery spaces, and finally culminates in a roof terrace. Conceived of as a conceptual extension of the pin-up spine, expressed on the facade as formal 'voids', the tower and its embedded programs serve as a symbolic expression of a continuous vertical space for 'academia'.
While the pin-up space expresses itself as the central vertical 'void' of the tower, studios spaces and support programs in contrast take the language of a formal ‘solid’ that hold the pin-up spine in place. Studio floors are ramped in a continuous spiral around the pin-up spine with an open plan that allows maximum flexibility for the varying needs and sizes of future studio classes. As a support space, they conceptually generate the ideas that feed the pin-up spine holding the larger programs in place.
At the ground level, connection from both the adjacent Nakheel R-35 Metro station and the adjoining university campus path slip underneath the folding form of the tower, activating its public atrium and facilitating pedestrian movement between the university and the greater Dubai transportation network. The folded dynamic roofscape of the tower as it meets the ground dually functions as an outdoor amphitheater as the landscape & the public interfaces with the base of the tower.
Blue Tape also recognizes how vital the professor-student relationship is to the architectural education. By placing the faculty offices and administrative services along the entire north-west elevation of the tower, offices are in direct adjacency to the studios on every level, providing an integrated educational environment. The addition of public open spaces along this facade mirror the nodal programs and creates outdoor spaces that foster social & academic interaction between students, their peers, and their instructors.
The idea of the pin-up space as the basis for our design was taken from our own personal academic experience in Architecture school. During our schooling, there seemed to always be a lack of available wall space to 'pin-up' our work. Pin-up space was often relegated to unused surface walls or pushed to cramped hallways or corridors with vacant walls. But in fact, the activity of the ‘pin-up’ really felt to us to be the epicenter of architectural education. At its essence, it is the space that forced collaboration, review, competition, and critique and it was vital to the way we came to learn architecture, culminating in each semester's final 'Blue Tape Reviews'. Accordingly, our proposal features the ‘pinup space’ as the un-compromised programmatic backbone of the entire school, re-defining the space as a distributor of knowledge and the auditorium, classrooms, and libraries as the receptors of that knowledge. In essence, it truly promotes the pinup space as the vital program for the dissemination of the architectural education.