Abu Dhabi // The futuristic new Zayed University was unveiled yesterday, and it will be a groundbreaking campus when completed in 2011. On display for the first time, the model shows a striking concrete and steel roof which the architect said was inspired by traditional Arab dress. The roof is to be clad in "self-cleaning" aluminium that does not accumulate dirt.
Work has already begun in Khalifa City on the 213,000 square metre campus, which will have space for 6,000 students, more than twice the number at the present site in central Abu Dhabi. The central building with the sweeping roof was conceived three months ago when officials decided the original plans, developed last year, should be amended to ensure the new facility looked iconic. Already, 900 people are working at the construction site, where work began in March, and this will rise to 4,000 as building work progresses.
"The roof is unique - they wanted it to be a masterpiece," said Abdullah Muwahid, general manager of the Abu Dhabi division of Al Habtoor Engineering, one of the companies building the campus. The central building was designed by Hadi Teherani, an Iranian-born German architect. "There will be more women than men [using the campus] and we wanted to create the model of something like a chador flowing overhead," Mr Teherani said.
"The roof creates the shade that you need in this temperature. Maybe we could make an intelligent roof that you could produce energy from." Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, described it is "a unique building". "It's futuristic and it's original," he said. "It will be a landmark building for Abu Dhabi for what it embodies." Zayed University is embarking on an expansion programme that will see enrolment in Abu Dhabi grow from about 2,300 at present to more than 4,000 in 2014.
The university already has considerable scope to expand student numbers in Dubai, where it moved into a new campus in Dubai Academic City two years ago. Numbers there are currently just under 5,000, but are due to grow to more than 9,000 by 2014. Dr Peggy Blackwell, dean of the university's College of Education, said there was a "desperate need" for the new campus, which she described as "awesome".
"I think it will set the standard for universities," she said. "The [current] campus in Abu Dhabi is very crowded. The classrooms are small in size and the faculty have no privacy because they're in cubicles. "This will be much better. There will be meeting rooms for relaxing and talking about issues. It's very important to build a sense of community among the faculty and this building has been designed to do that."
Unlike UAE University, which is looking to take on large numbers of doctoral students, Zayed University plans to concentrate on expanding undergraduate numbers, although it is also looking to increase its research activity. The university, which last year received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a US accrediting body, offers degrees in subjects such as the arts, sciences, IT, media, business and education.
It was founded in 1998 as a female-only institution, although there are now male students at the Abu Dhabi campus and from the next academic year at the Dubai campus too. Yesterday Sheikh Nahyan took part in a symbolic ground-breaking at the construction site along with the architect and senior officials from Al Habtoor Engineering and Mubadala, the project's developer. Mubadala will operate the facility for 25 years after construction is completed. Other university projects Mubadala is involved in include the new UAE University campus in Al Ain, the Paris-Sorbonne University campus being built on Reem Island and the forthcoming New York University facility on Saadiyat Island.