COMPETITION: Dubai Architecture School Tower by [AC-CA]
RANK: 1st Place (Winning Entry!)
YEAR: post-graduate
DATE: february, 2014
DESIGN LENGTH: two (2) months
TEAM: evan shieh, ali chen

PROJECT SITE: the american university satellite campus, dubai
PROGRAM: pin-up space, studios, offices, classrooms, auditorium, library, event & gallery spaces, social spaces

Fast Company Design
Architecture Lab
The Competitions Blog
BLUE TAPE is a vertical re-imagining of the typical architecture school typology. Located adjacent to the American University of Dubai and publicly integrated with the Dubai metro system, this satellite campus houses an international architecture program offering students the opportunity to pursue a modern architectural education within an iconic tower on the Dubai 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 and vital 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 space 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 an outdoor social roof terrace. These public programs become conceptual extensions of the Pin-Up spine, expressed on the facade of the tower as formal 'voids', serving as a symbolic and public expression of a continuous space of 'academia'.

The studios then take the language of a formal 'solid' in contrast to the Pin-Up 'void'. The studios 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. The studios, as a support space, generate the ideas that feed the Pin-Up spine that then conceptually feed the larger program nodes.

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 at the University of Southern California's School of Architecture. During our 5 years there, 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.

Yet to us, the activity of the pin-up space really felt to be the epicenter of our architectural education. It is the space where we formed our ideas and developed our designs and eventually had our reviews. These peer reviews with instructors and colleagues forced collaboration, review, competition, and critique, and was vital to the way we came to learn architecture. That is why we chose the pin-up space to be the starting point in our design, a space we felt should be featured and un-compromised.

The name 'Blue Tape' is taken from the school-wide final design reviews instituted by our school administration, during which the school rents out an entire floor of an office tower in downtown LA (due to the lack of pin-up space on campus at USC). The first year the reviews took place, the school provided ample amounts of blue tape to students to pin-up their work, generating the nickname, 'Blue Tape Reviews'. So although the name is a bit enigmatic to the general public, the title 'Blue Tape' really represents the personal meaning this project has for us and of our own ties to academia.

// Evan Shieh & Ali Chen

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