Completion Date: February 2014


New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Rafael Vinoly Architects

With the goal of creating a truly integrated, world-class institution, New York University and the Executive Affairs Authority of the Abu Dhabi Government forged a partnership with in the Fall of 2007 to promote education, advanced research, and intellectual inquiry in the sciences and arts—the first such endeavor in Abu Dhabi and the Middle-East.

The resulting institution, New York University Abu Dhabi, is a bold step in higher education. Intended up host up to 2,000 students, it combines a liberal arts and sciences college, select graduate programs, and advanced research, all fully integrated into a major research university. The campus fosters a global orientation and cross-cultural communication among students who live and study with unusually diverse classmates while deepening their understanding of the host city of Abu Dhabi and of Islamic history and culture.

The project’s goals called for a compact, pedestrian-oriented design, encouraging faculty-student interaction and multidisciplinary connections while adapting to the local climate. The public is welcome on campus to attend performances and exhibitions, public lectures, sporting events, and educational activities. The campus boundaries are permeable to offer public access and create a connection to future urban development.

Architecturally, the project reflects the building traditions of Abu Dhabi and Islamic urbanism without resorting to historicist forms. It combines the notion of the street as connector at multiple levels, in a way that reminds us of the traditional sabat, with the innovative business/residential type of the wikala to provide both multi-level, diverse functionality and a compact urban footprint.

Within this framework, programs stack on top of each other to create a campus where various aspects of life intertwine. The split-level circulation allows the residences to form a quasi-private realm of low-rise buildings with landscaped areas for socializing, while the ground level has a more formal and public character, a critical distinction for the campus’ anticipated role as a civic and cultural anchor for a future urban neighborhood. Aside from its highly efficient use of space, this unconventional arrangement also represents a key strategy in activating the entirety of the campus’ physical footprint by combining campus elements that are typically kept separate, encouraging students and faculty to engage with the space and each other.

The campus is composed of 29 buildings and encompasses approximately 4,574,000 gross square feet of building area set on a 11.3 hectare parcel for a population of up to 2,600 students. Outdoor athletic facilities are located on the four hectare North Site. 637,000 square feet of landscaped space on two levels establish a public and semi-private realm. Buildings are mixed-use, with residences located above academic buildings but accessed independently.

Arts venues and state-of-the-art athletic facilities animate the social and cultural life of the University, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. The campus also holds one of the best modern libraries in the region. Teaching facilities are fully equipped for technologically-oriented, collaborative learning. These facilities are innovative at a global level and represent a commitment to elevating the stature of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

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