Sheikh Zayed University

Sumkanieh zone in general and the lot allocated for the university in particular benefit from spectacular vistas. At the same time it suffers from a chaotic and obviously unplanned development of the zone, which yields a confused built scenery.

Our design for the Sheikh Zayed University aims at creating a clean and neat place for the area, namely via providing a pristine “campus” carefully surrounded by understated  university  buildings. This project has the objective of creating a  nucleus, a catalyst for the Sumkanieh area.

The design follows a simple and functional approach. We pushed the buildings to the sides of the site, to create a void, a campus, oriented east/west and open towards the view. It stretches from the west, where the main entrance is located, towards the east where a monumental staircase offers itself onto the campus, and follows the site topography. All functions which do not require natural light (main auditorium, sports court) are buried underground to limit over ground built areas.

The buildings function based on a very simple layout which benefits from natural cross ventilation via the main corridors and the staircases. The classrooms are all generously well lit (whether clear north orientation, or louvered south orientation), and are easily accessible via two elevator cores and three staircase in each building (following fire codes). All public functions are located at the ground floor for ease of access (administration, library, cafeteria,..), and the same goes for the sports hall.

The landscape concept follows the idea of an urban natural outdoor space. The circular features mimic the image of a forest. Whether as a water fountain, or as an accessible planter, the features are almost randomly laid out, which somehow balances the clean cut buildings that frame it.

The final composition is uniquely simple, direct, functional, practical and even academically austere. Just the right balance for a university.