Swiss Bureau-designed school in Dubai encourages student interaction


Designed by Swiss Bureau, The Swiss International Scientific School is the first ever purpose built educational building in the region to be awarded Minergie label.

Praised by the judging panel for its vibrant design and clever use of materials, the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai was a highly commended project in this year’s CID Awards in the public sector category. Interior architect Joakim de Rham and his team at Swiss Bureau delivered colourful spaces that encourage student interaction but also managed to obtain a Minergie label, which is a stringent Swiss certificate for sustainable standards.


“The client was working in the hospitality business in Switzerland, but after relocating to Dubai, he felt that something was missing, and he wanted a top education for his six children. He wanted us to produce an innovative design for a modern school that would offer some of the best facilities in the region. The design also needed to differentiate the Swiss School from all other schools in the region,” explains de Rham. “The client wanted us to create interiors that encourage positivity and a safe and welcoming academic environment.”

The school’s founder, Omar Danial, also a Swiss national, wanted to take inspiration from his home country, challenging designers to incorporate his brief into the Middle Eastern desert surroundings. The concept stemmed from the geography of Switzerland, including the angular shapes of the mountains and the country’s diverse natural elements, which were incorporated into the design through the use of scale and perspective.


“The client said ‘let’s get something from Switzerland’ so we reinterpreted the shapes and angles of the mountains throughout the school,” adds de Rham. “We incorporated many understated elements that remind us of our homeland and nature, such as wooden patterns on the flooring and green carpets, resembling grass. Also, the ceiling lights were randomly placed so as to evoke the idea of snowflakes.”

The open lobby at the entrance encompassing three floors ensures a strong first impression and resembles a woodland environment.

“The concept of bringing nature inside was important to the client so we decided to clad the columns in the lobby area with wood to represent the ‘tree of knowledge’. We also framed this area with a green carpet to continue the theme of nature and the outdoors and placed colourful seating poufs representing mushrooms on the floor,” he adds.


Inspired by the well-known Swiss brand Caran D’Ache, which manufacturers colour pencils, one wall in the lobby area is entirely covered with large format wooden pencils with gold lettering. This wall soon became the most popular background for students’ selfies.

Moving through the corridors, designers used different colours to help children quickly identify their classrooms. The colour they’ve used on the ceiling was also used on the flooring outside the classrooms in the shape of paint spill.


“A sense of identity was enabled through individual geometric shapes on the ceiling of each classroom. As you move into the areas designated for older children we have used more sophisticated forms, finishes and colours,” explains the designer. “We wanted to use concrete for the flooring but it was too expensive and not as good for maintenance, so we used vinyl. It has an amazing quality and is versatile enough regarding colours and wooden-style patterns.”

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