Architects, Architecture, Dubai architecture, Education architecture, Education design, Godwin Austen Johnson, Jason Burnside, Refurbishment

11. Jason Burnside
Partner - GAJ

A former winner of Middle East Architect of the Year and a specialist in designing schools Jason Burnside joined GAJ in 2001.As one of its longest-serving staff, he has taken part in some of its highest profile collaborations including Gate Village at Dubai International Financial Centre with Sir Michael Hopkins Architects.

Will the education sector start seeing more refurbishment projects?

While it is probably too early to call refurbishment in the education sector a trend, there is certainly an increase in the number of established schools that are adding new facilities to their campuses as well as refurbishing existing building stock. This is probably to maintain an edge over the expanding list of new schools that have recently opened.

The rise in technology integration in education buildings is potentially one factor for the growing need of better integration of technology in learning environments, but it also makes economic sense to renovate and repurpose facilities to accommodate such changes without the need to relocate to a new facility with the associated costs and so forth.

Through good design, the opportunity to add extra space for expanding year groups or to provide collaborative and flexible learning spaces is achieved, adding further value. In our recent projects, we studied how we could improve running costs by adding retrofit insulation and more intelligent lighting and cooling systems.

Some regional examples include GAJ’s recent significant demolition and rebuild for Emirates International School to improve the density and efficiency of the early years’ facility whilst freeing up valuable external play space. In addition to this, we also engaged with a number of projects for Dubai College, which are currently on site and due to be handed over in August 2018 ahead of the new academic year.

The works started with the conversion of an existing staff accommodation block into the new English Block which created 10 new classrooms and a Harkness teaching room, internal and external breakout spaces. The old admin building is now being converted into a teacher and student learning hub with a large focus on collaborative learning spaces mixed with traditional classrooms and teacher training facilities.

In the early stages of the design process it was agreed with the senior leadership team that it is impossible to accurately predict the continuing influence of how technology can assist in delivering high-quality education other than we need to be able to quickly react and adapt to change.

Our approach to incorporating technology was therefore to ensure that there was as much flexibility in how the spaces were laid out and how the connection points can cater for different scenarios of teaching methods. A combination of traditional white boards were combined with smart TVs that can be linked with the students tablet and facilitate the sharing of information and ideas. Portable battery towers will be distributed throughout the teaching spaces to ensure that students can recharge their devices throughout the day which is a very real and practical problem with increased reliance on technology.

This was originally written by Jason Burnside, head of education design at Godwin Austen Johnson, for Middle East Architect’s July 2018 issue