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A Better Place For Kids To Learn

The Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, takes education beyond the constraints of a typical classroom with a variety of interior environments designed to cultivate the love of learning.

BY Janice Seow

June 2nd, 2016

Photography: Kim Wendt and Rosan Bosch

In its regard for the Information Age, the Sheikh Zayed Academy for Boys believes that education should transcend academics. It seeks to instil technological literacy, social skills, the ability to collaborate and creative thinking amongst its students.

Recognising that cookie-cutter learning models, composed of standard classrooms and hallways, will not generate stimulating spaces for the acquisition of such skills, the academy sought the help of Copenhagen-based interdisciplinary design agency Rosan Bosch Studio, which is renowned for its design of schools. Backed by 11 years of experience, the studio’s approach is underscored by a firm belief that children are born with an innate curiosity to learn, and that schools should be designed to drive the love of learning.


A differentiated and tailored approach was adopted to create a variety of learning environments within the 29,000 square-metre institution that caters to approximately 1,400 students from KG1 to Gr12 (ages 4 to 17). It is composed of formal and informal educational spaces that support various modes of teaching and learning. Spaces were designed to “invoke a sense of pride and belonging, and embrace and stimulate the individual needs of each child.”


Thematic spaces, such as an ‘oasis with palm trees’, an ‘underwater swimming pool’ and a ‘cave in a mountain’ take the place of conventional hallways. These knowledge-sharing premises, defined by friendly and organic forms, are aimed at inspiring creativity and collaboration amongst students with a sense of openness and freedom. They bear none of the homogenous elements commonly found in traditional classrooms.


Complementing the inclusive spaces, the strong visual identity expressed was inspired by cultural traditions. Referencing local culture, break-out premises take the shape of sand dunes. An auditorium was designed to look like the desert.


Generous indoor spaces for sports and movements, recognised by the academy as vital parts of the education process, were also incorporated to stimulate learning.



“The child’s innate wish to learn and develop itself is the most important passion. The challenge is to develop a school design that stimulates and nurtures this drive,” says Dutch-born artist Rosan Bosch, founder of Rosan Bosch Studio.

Rosan Bosch Studio rosanbosch.com