GAJ’s Jason Burnside on how teachers have helped shape the new sports complex – SPACE
The art of designing schools is not just about the functionality of a classroom it is also about providing a facility to match the teaching and learning that educators hope to foster. The new sports complex at Dubai College (SPACE) is a considerable investment for the college and quite unlike anything else in the region. It also has the potential as a commercial premises capable of competing with any standalone health club in the region and I believe it will set a new benchmark in terms of sports and drama facilities within a school environment.
Throughout the process it was important to maintain a constant dialogue with the teachers at the college to discuss their preferences within the different areas and, more importantly, what outcomes they were hoping to achieve. It has, thus, been a highly interactive process where they provided valuable feedback on how they would manage the spaces and what their expectations were.
Through a gap analysis and lengthy discussions with the college we were able to determine what was required and to identify the areas within the new SPACE that we needed to build upon and enhance for a GCSE and A-level curriculum.
Our vision was to create teaching spaces within the fitness area so that, as well as the physical fitness activities, there are the facilities to educate students on what they are doing from a biological approach. We wanted to provide extensive aerobics, cardiovascular, strength and conditioning areas as well as drama and music facilities.
With space at a premium the design team had a challenging footprint to work with and so prioritising how the space will be used has been crucial.
In the early scheme provided by GAJ what the design team were able to add, which wasn’t initially part of the plan, was the gym and strength and conditioning area. Aiming to try to avoid a scenario where the room was merely bolted on to the side of the main sports hall we took the initiative to make this area the centrepiece of the complex and an integral part of the learning process. We felt that the relationship between physical fitness and the theory of movement would be better explored within an active environment to be able to demonstrate the science of physical motion within a structured learning process, an idea that was well received by the college.
In addition to this we have added a new covered swimming pool with spectator seating, electronic touch timing and pool office, external MUGA court as well as new staff facilities including breakout spaces and meeting rooms.
Previously the school only had one sports hall, now we have two halls with a dividing net which can double the number of activities possible at one time. This space can also be reconfigured to a centrepiece show court with retractable seating for approximately 400 spectators for special events.
Outside of the sports hall a new hall of fame documenting the sporting achievement of the school leads to a healthy eating café and external terrace.
At the heart of the facility a ‘red carpet’ will lead guests and students to a central lobby and the music and drama department. From this lobby students will be able to access the new music classrooms and practice rooms as well as drama studios on one side and the main black box theatre on the other side.
While larger events will still take place in the main school auditorium, which was also designed by us, the area will provide a rich teaching and performance area that has the ability to be reconfigured to accommodate up to 140 guests.
It has been a collaborative process right from the start with constructive suggestions coming from both the college and the GAJ team working on the project as we work to ensure that the students and teachers have access to the best facilities possible.
Read part one of the Building the new Dubai College Sports Complex story here
A SPACE to learn – Dubai College teachers talk about the importance of their new facility
Dubai College has a long history of sporting excellence in the UAE. It has been leading the way with high performance training programs and specialist coaches for years, which is reflected in the strength and depth of our teams. The new sports complex will finally give DCSport a home on campus that reflects the quality of performer we have here.
Sara Donovan, Teacher of PE and Head of Netball
I am hugely looking forward to our new sports centre because it will enable us to create more sophisticated personalised training programmes for our elite performers whilst offering a huge variety of different sporting activities for all students, both inside and outside of lessons.
Aaron Day, Teacher of PE
The new Sport Centre is a symbol of Dubai College’s ambition on and off the field to give the rugby boys and girls the best training facility in the UAE. All requirements are more than catered for in this fit-for-purpose facility and it is a hugely exciting time for the School with everyone looking forward to this new era for Dubai College rugby.
Jacques Benade, Rugby Coach
The new Sports Complex is providing us with a world class facility, which will further enhance our sporting reputation in the region. Our students and community will benefit from the wide variety of sporting and exercise opportunities available.
Andrew Jones, Director of Sport
The new sports hall will be instrumental in allowing DC to build upon the already outstanding PE and Sports programmes. It will allow us to nurture and grow our athletes in an excellent, high high quality facility.
CJ Innes, Teacher of PE