Al Bateen school is one of six Aldar Academies to be delivered in Abu Dhabi. Oliver Ephgrave gets a tour of the jaw-dropping building
Aldar Academies’ newly opened education facility in the affluent Al Bateen area of Abu Dhabi is definitely not a typical school. With its deconstructivist facade, amorphous central atrium, mosaic-lined bathrooms and wide light-filled corridors, the building is far removed from the traditional rabbit-warren-meets-prison aesthetic.
As one of the six Aldar Academies now operational in the emirate, Al Bateen Secondary School accommodates pupils from ages 11 to 18. Detailed design and engineering was provided by Dewan while construction work was carried out by the UK’s Wates Construction and local partner Al Fara’a Integrated Construction Group.
On a site tour, shortly before the opening of the building, Matthew Kennedy, Middle East managing director at Wates, commented: “The school is designed for 1,500 but actually it could take double that. Aldar Academies is very generous with its pupil to square metre ratio.”
As well as being staggering in scale, the facility is filled with the latest high tech wizardry. Ian Wright, project director, Wates, adds: “Everything you’d expect in a top class building is in this school. There is a BMS that controls everything and the lights are on sensors. The security is long distance proximity – you don’t have to swipe.”
The building also contains renewable energy measures. In addition to solar-powered heating, the roof of the sports hall contains photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid and are estimated to produce 326 MWhs of energy per year.
A big challenge for all parties was the client’s fast track construction programme; the project needed to be complete in time for the new school year in September. Ammar Al Assam, executive director, Dewan Architects and Engineers, says: “The concept design was done by CPG from Singapore. We were given two months to do the detailed design work.
This was very tight. It would have been a challenge even in a conventional design.”
It’s clear that the building is far from conventional. While peering through the curved class into the open-air atrium, Kennedy remarks: “This is one of the most complicated elements of the building because there isn’t a straight line or a regular face. Even the open space in the middle is not a symmetrical oval.”
The irregular nature of the design mirrors the progressive teaching environment. Al Assam adds: “The school is a unique learning environment with break-out areas.
It doesn’t have a rigid system and the kids aren’t stuck in one room all day. For instance, the atrium functions as an ‘oasis’. It’s an external learning area with benches. If I was a kid studying here I would absolutely love it. It’s like a museum.”
Client: Aldar Academies
Architect and structural engineer: Dewan Architects & Engineers
Concept architect: CPG Architects
Main contractor: Wates Construction / Al Fara’a Construction
Landscaping and irrigation works: Advanced Agricultural Systems
MEP works: Al Sabbah Electro Mech
Solar energy: Enviromena
MEP/civil works for swimming pool: Hydrotec
Metal roofing system: Intertouch Roofing System
Elevator: Kone Elevators
Composite wall cladding: SMC Interiors
Maple flooring: Standard Building Materials
Structural steel: Unimarine Tech Services