Accommodating Dubai’s global student intake


Thinking outside the box was a major design influence on the UAE’s first purpose built student accommodation which is now open for business.

Stride Treglown was the firm behind Uninest, situated close to Academic City but home to young people from across the world and attending a wide range of the city’s further education establishments.

Architect Nigel Craddock explained that the buildings distinctive “H” shape serves two functions.


“The H plan configuration was developed for two reasons firstly – to provide maximum frontage for units within the site constraints as well as flexibility for potential future segregation of students into male and female wings

“Secondly it was a push back against the standard ‘doughnut building’ approach on these sort of sites, which result in simple extruded box exteriors. It was instead an exercise in how to provide architectural interest and relief through articulation, and the breaking down of building massing.”

The building contains 424 beds with the majority of residents aged between 18 and 22.

Above ground level, which includes a study and reception area there are 10 floors with a swimming pool on the roof and a gym. The pool was prefabricated and then dropped into place via a crane.

Architect Jess Konsal said: “The rooms are a mix of twin and studio with double width windows to maximize natural light.  We have also used vibrant colours for the décor and ensured there are quiet spaces for study and areas which allow the students to interact.”

The scheme is orientated to offer its principal façade, consisting of a staggered fenestrated window arrangement, to the roadside and site entry point.

This main elevation is wrapped and cloaked by an architectural frame which defines the key accommodation, folding up and over the building from the south-east to the north-west façade.

Craddock said: “At roof level, the architectural frames provide shading opportunities to amenity space, namely an external pool and terrace areas, with the extruded lip creating a veil of shade at high sun level down the main building façade.”

The end elevations of the H arrangement are split to form twin vertical components, said the design team

Craddock explained: “To the south-east, components of each wing are fully opaque, ensuring that low level eastern solar gain is minimised. To the north-west, glazing is introduced to the inner section only of both wings to provide an open framed elevation, capitalising on the potential for distant views from communal spaces toward the coast, Dubai skyline, the Burj Khalifa, and the sunset.

“In addition to the roof-level amenities, outdoor space is offered at first floor level with provision of a north-west orientated terrace. At ground level, the main building entrance and reception is defined by a cantilevered concrete canopy, and the adjacent food and beverage facility is given main street visibility combined with side access through a landscaped garden.”


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